Spaces for Life

The ReTouch Home Improvement blog



Spaces for Life: Universal Design Frequently Asked Questions

By Lance McCarthy

I have asked one of the other members of the ReTouch community (we have a number of companies in the construction and real estate industry that office together and work collaboratively) to write for this week, and I think you might find it interesting.

Bryon Sunday owns Accessibility Remodeling, and they specialize in creating spaces that allow people to live independently who may not otherwise be able to do so.  There are a lot of names for this type of work: Universal Design, Aging in Place, Accessible Remodeling, Senior Remodeling…  Whatever the term, this concept is helping to make housing and other buildings much more usable for a larger segment of the population.
This service can be very helpful for anyone with a disability, but it is also useful for an aging population that wants to stay in their home longer while living as safely as possible.  


A few statistics:

  • 1 in 5 Americans is aged 65+
  • The number of Americans aged 65+ is expected to double by 2030.  

I’ve asked Bryon to answer some of the questions he gets most often from his prospective clients.  I hope you find it informative.

Is Accessibility Remodeling expensive?

We find the simplest approach to usually be the most effective for overcoming an obstacle.  Often, something as easy as installing grab bars in a bathroom or handrails in a garage are all that are needed to keep someone safe.  However, more extensive remodeling may need to be done in some instances for true independence.

Is it worth it?

The average cost for a private one-bedroom apartment in an assisted living residence is $3,022 per month according to the Assisted Living Federation of America.  One year at this rate would equal $36,264.  Although it depends on the scope of work and the health of the person, our average project cost is around $10,000.  That is a much cheaper alternative to assisted living.

Does medicare/medicaid pay for home modifications?

Medicare does not pay for any home modifications or assistive devices.  Medicaid uses Home and  Community Based Services (HCBS) Waivers.  These waivers are used to promote independent living and help people remain in their home.  They are usually limited to a certain amount of funds per year per patient and may be restricted to certain types of modifications.  Each state has different eligibility criteria.  You would need to contact your state medicaid office for assistance in enrolling in one of these programs.

Does my home have to be made to look like a hospital?

Manufacturers have introduced many new products over the last few years to give remodelers more choices when it comes to finishes.  For example, grab bars have evolved into “jewelry pieces” for the shower.  Chair height toilets now come in many different styles and colors.  Shower systems can provide more jets, heads and options than a carwash.  With smart design and a capable contractor, an “accessible home” can look just like any other home.

Can Senior modifications be reversed?

Most major modifications–like door widening or a barrier-free shower pan–are permanent.  Some of the more simple actions, like installing transfer products, ramps and additional handrails can be removed with little to no repair work.  

What should I look for in a contractor?

Since design is an important part of the process, make sure you work with one that has a licensed interior designer or architect on staff that is experienced with universal design.  Also look for someone who is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS).  They have been trained to work in this area.

If you are interested in learning more, just let me know.  Or check out their website.  

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