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Princeton Design Collaborative

Hi Elaine,

I am the architect for the project you had a question on. In this particular case the couple are VERY active and mobile. There was a decision made that the new design should accommodate aging in place for an active couple. If the time ever comes that one or both are wheel chair bound that would be the time to move to apartment within an age restrictive complex where wheelchair accessibly can be found. There are many exceptional such facilities within their area for this.

The requirements for a individual slowing down in years is much different then one who is in a wheel chair. So a more compact bath makes for easier mobility while one still has the ability to walk. It also saves on valuable real estate within the home and is less to clean. Clients should always be asked what their intentions are when wanting to age in place.

I hope this brings some clarity to your question.

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Elaine Christensen

Dear Princeton Design Collaborative,

Thank you, it does clarify. The couple is fortunate in their confidence that they will always be mobile and active - the design is excellent for their purposes. For me aging in place means the ability to stay in a home unless there are dire health problems such as quadriplegia; it does only take a second to change your life. Amenities for disability are usually good for everyone.

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@Elaine Christensen: You write like you had a close relative become a sudden disabled person and it was difficult to function in that person's situation. For many years I was a CEO of a home health agency covering an entire county pre- assisted living centers, hospice, meals on wheel, palliative, and other specialty care services. No one planned for the future.

We dealt with things as they happened. So if we were visiting a stroke patient, we would also assist in turning a downstairs little used room into a bedroom. We would work on building ramps, devising ways for the person to live in his/her own home. During that time, most folks lived multi-generational, not like now where relatives are strangers most of the time. There was no such thing as a no curb shower. We made shower ramps. There were no such things as seat height toilets and grab bars and lowering of sinks/counters and so on. Yet, everyone functioned nicely. ADA didn't even exist.

Fast forward today. It's still no different, except there is an entire industry dedicated to disabled of all ages, not just elderly. Who is to say a 10 year old will be come disabled and need a wheelchair or oxygen or a 90 year old who doesn't require a wheelchair, cane or walker?

So go ahead, a lower all your cabinets, counter tops to 30", widen every single door to 36" and all room clearances between objects to 48". You might have to push out a wall or two. Yeah, guess you would enjoy having all that space, but ouch - your poor aching back from leaning over all the time to a 30" counter top since you aren't disabled.

Yes, there is a medium. I took care of my father who had a major stroke. I had a seat height toilet and a no curb shower and plenty of grab bars. I even had concrete ramps on all my porches leading to every single door. As for the sink, I did leave an opening below for his wheelchair, but mostly, he was content with a bowl on a board we attached to the arms of his chair so he could use his one good arm to wash his face and brush his teeth, comb his hair and even shave. But in a wheelchair he needed assistance to get in a out, for transfers and to dress himself. He wasn't allowed to cook, or drive. Some disables can still cook and drive.

There are too many individual cases. Each are different and each have different needs. To guess what the future will hold - well, you are better than most folks - since you know. And no, amenities for disability are not always good for the average person. Even a seat high toilet can and does cause problems for the healthy. If I have to explain that, well, you need to talk with your doctor.

Having some changes are good such as no curb shower, grab bars, more cabinets below and less above. But other things aren't necessary unless they are required in which case some remodeling can be done.


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