Full Episodes of Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford

How to Make Homes More Accessible for the Elderly

By: Danny Lipford
Bathroom that has been modified to make it more accessible for the elderly.

Bathroom that has been modified to make it more accessible for the elderly.

Watch this video to find out how to make an existing house more easily accessible for the elderly or those with disabilities by:

  • Widening doorways and lowering thresholds for wheelchair access.
  • Installing swing away hinges on doors to increase access.
  • Building a wheelchair ramp to provide easy access.
  • Installing grab bars and easy to operate bathroom plumbing fixtures.
  • Adding a shower seat and easy to use shower spray attachment.
  • Installing a higher toilet with room for a wheelchair next to it.

Read episode article to find out more.

Further Information

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Danny Lipford: As we get older some things just don’t work like they used to. That can present challenges in accessing all or part of your home. This week we look at the solutions.

Announcer: Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford, the voice of home improvement, with projects, tips and ideas to help you improve your home.

Danny Lipford: It’s inevitable, we all get older and some of the more simple things start to be a little more difficult. That also means that for many homeowners, they face a lot of obstacles around their homes.

Going up and down stairs, that starts being a problem, and narrow doorways, narrow hallways that also can be a problem.

Now, whether it’s a limitation that you’re facing or one of your family members, there has to be a solution, and there is: it’s a concept called aging in place. Now, whether the physical limitations are a result of age or illness or an accident, most people want to stay in familiar surroundings like their homes.

Well, aging in place addresses these concerns by taking care of any changes that are needed in the home so that you can stay where you’re most familiar.

Now, this week we’re in Houston, Texas, talking with a contractor that specializes in this type of renovation and we’ll look at some of the problems that homeowners face, and some of the tools and techniques to address these.

Now, whether you are facing this situation right now or you can see it in your future, we’ll share with you some ideas that will show you how easy it is to make your home more accessible. Stay with us.

This week we’re looking at a concept called aging in place which involves adapting an existing home to meet the changing physical needs of the homeowners. Now this is pretty important because 25% of the U.S. population is over 65 years of age or has some type of disability.

Now, for some folks that means the home that they’ve lived in for years and years no longer meets their needs. So the dilemma is to change the house so that it does meet their needs or to find a new one that will.

Now this is the home of Delores Sanders, and in recent years her physical needs have changed, making everyday activities more of a challenge than they should be. Her son Larry explained to us the challenges they face and how they are addressing them.
Larry Sanders: My parents built this house in 1967. And it was going to be their last home. They knew that when they built it, they knew that when they moved in.

So they never intended to go anywhere else and now we’ve come to a place where one part of it needs to be reconstructed in such a way that it really accommodates mother at this time in her life.

The bathroom just needs to be more convenient for her, it needs to be for her caregivers, and one of the things that we’re hoping that this will do is make the care of my mother easier, so that she can stay in her own home, instead of going to some sort of facility which we just can’t imagine.

It also means that my sister can pursue her life and it means that I can pursue mine and my brother can pursue his because we continue to upgrade her existence in a way that she can also continue to live an independent life of her own.

Danny Lipford: Larry found a remodeling contractor right here in Houston that specialized in this type of renovation. His name is Dan Bawden and he carries the CAPS credentials, which means Certified Aging In Place Specialist, which means he completed extensive training through the Remodeler’s Council of the National Association of Home Builders, which will prepare him to find solutions with situations that face the Sanders family.

Now, we tagged along with Dan just to look at how he’s going to handle some of the situations here.

Dan Bawden: You can see that as you come in the entry door, it’s very, very restrictive and there’s no room to maneuver. In fact if we can step into the bathroom a little bit here, if you look down here at the door jam going into the other room there, you’ll notice that the paints been knocked off there and actually on both sides, just from trying to get the wheelchair in and out of this area.

So if we move a little further into this room you can see more problems come up. Look how the tub is difficult to access and if you had somebody in this room with a caretaker and you’re trying to use the commode facilities as well as the bathtub there’s just no room to maneuver whatsoever. So this has been a really difficult thing for the family, and we plan to fix it by opening up the space.

Danny Lipford: These are just a few of the ideas that Dan is suggesting to the Sanders family to address some of the accessibility needs. Now Dan’s challenge goes far beyond just eliminating the physical obstacles that the Sanders family has because everybody has a mental image of what a facility that is accessible really looks like.

Far too institutional looking for most homeowners, well the Sanders’ were concerned about this so Delores’ daughter in law, Francine, who is an interior decorator is lending her talents to make sure that the project looks as aesthetically pleasing as it is functional.

Francine Sanders: The first thing I’m going to do is talking to her about what her favorite colors are and then we’re going to see if we can do some of the color in this area here and in here we can, we’re talking about doing a sink that for example has granite around it, and we’ll pick a granite that’s going to work well with whatever colors it is she wants.

We can also pick the fixtures for the sink and for the shower, all of which will get away from that, what people sometimes think of as institutional kind of look, and be something that is both attractive and something that is obviously very, very functional for her for the first time. So you know it’s really great to be able to combine both of those elements.

Danny Lipford: Delores has made all of her selections and the work has already begun. And when we come back right after our Simple Solution we’ll take a look at how everything’s going.

Announcer: It’s time for this week’s Simple Solution from home repair expert Joe Truini.

Danny Lipford: A rubber mallet is a very handy tool when you’re assembling a woodworking project where you just don’t want to damage the surface.

Joe Truini: Rubber mallets are also great for furniture repair projects, where you have to tap parts apart, or if you’re putting down any type of glue down flooring you can hammer it down without damaging it.

A problem though with a black mallet like this is that it leaves behind black marks and then you have to come back and sand it out, and that’s no fun.

So one way to prevent that from happening is taking an old cotton sock, preferably a nice thick gym sock like this and simply slip it over the head of the mallet. Now it’s fully covered and protected and you can hammer away and not leave behind any marks.

Danny Lipford: So that’s why you’re always wearing just one sock.

Joe Truini: That’s it. That’s the reason. Now if you don’t have a rubber mallet, and you don’t care to go buy one, you can get a similar effect by just using a simple nail hammer, but you have to protect the steel head because you don’t want it damaging the work space.

So go to a hardware store and pickup a rubber tip like this that is made for a chair leg, and simply slip it over the head of the hammer.

Now this is a one-inch size, it’ll fit most hammer heads, then tap it down until it’s fully seeded. And now you can hammer away and not leave behind any marks.

Danny Lipford: That’s a great tip, but just remember, make sure when you are buying the chair tip that you are buying a white one and not a black one.

We’re here in Houston, Texas where this home is being renovated to make it more wheelchair accessible for the homeowners and the contractor that’s taking care of that work, Dan Bawden, who’s a buddy of mine and has the CAPS designation. What does it mean Dan?

Dan Bawden: Well the CAPS designation stands for Certified Aging in Place Specialist. This is an exciting new designation put on by the National Association of Homebuilders.

What it’s about is training contractors and builders to modify and build home so people can remain in them as they get older without having to move out to nursing homes or assisted living.

Danny Lipford: That’s something that a lot of people are facing these days, unfortunately and I know that one of your jobs really is to look at the obstacles and figure out ways around it. And I can see right here already a obstacle that you have to deal with in order to get a wheelchair in this home.

Dan Bawden: Absolutely right. You can see that there’s—let me open the door here—there’s a step up here and actually two or three obstacles right in one close area here.

But we’ll be building a ramp that goes from the top of this threshold on out over the sidewalk, a nice gradual ramp, with a non slip surface that can be removed later. That if the next homeowner doesn’t need to have that ramp there, so we try to build these features in where they are useful for the current occupant but can be taken away later if need be.

Danny Lipford: That makes sense, now what about the threshold, how will you handle that?

Dan Bawden: We’ve got a plan for that, let me show you. Take a look at this threshold right here, you’ll notice that it sticks up almost an inch and this is a very common type of threshold that people have in their homes. This is going away completely so the wheelchair can roll right over this smoothly.

You may be asking what we put in its place. Well underneath the door here and the existing front door, we’re going to put a device that actually springs down and the threshold comes from inside the door.

Danny Lipford: That way you can really always seal it off then, even without this.

Dan Bawden: Exactly. So all the weather and the bugs are kept outside but there’s a nice smooth surface here.

Danny Lipford: Oh that makes a lot of sense, that’ll make it a lot easier for that wheelchair but boy another obstacle there Dan.

Dan Bawden: Yeah. You notice that there’s a step up here in this entry hall. This is also a very common problem. Obviously a wheelchair couldn’t roll over that either. So what we’re going to do here is build a lightweight, removable ramp that will actually be stored on the wall behind me and when it’s needed they can put it down, they can roll mom out of the house with no problem. When she doesn’t need to be going in and out they just pick the ramp up and it’s a normal entry hall.

Danny Lipford: Oh, well, that perfect, it’s a good solution. But I know a lot of the work involving making a home wheelchair accessible involves the bathroom. I know you have got a lot going on in there.

Dan Bawden: We do, let’s go take a look.

Danny Lipford: All right.

Dan Bawden: Yeah. We’re working on the ceramic tile in the bathroom today. In fact here’s Oscar. Oscar’s doing the final wipe down on the grout here.

Danny Lipford: Oh, wow, that looks great and I can see that will certainly accommodate a chair with the size of it and no curb at all, you’re able to just roll right in there.

Dan Bawden: Yeah. If you take a look the floor is gently sloped to the drain so we’ll have a shower curtain across here, and move that aside it’s easy to get in and out whether you’re in a wheelchair or not, this is a very easy to use shower.

Danny Lipford: Well, that’s great, really looks good. Now what about grab bars? Are you planning on any grab bars in there?

Dan Bawden: We are planning to put grab bars, and we have put a plywood backing behind here, a waterproof plywood so we can put those grab bars wherever we want to, even as her needs may change over time. So it’s a very easy way of reinforcing the walls.

Danny Lipford: Oh, that’s perfect, really just perfect. Now the toilet right here and a space beside it to allow for a wheelchair to come up I guess on either side.

Dan Bawden: Right this has been positioned so that it fits the current owner’s needs. Her caretaker can help her on this side or on the shower side and it’ll work great.

And we’re going to put in a higher toilet. We’re putting in higher toilets on all of our bathroom projects now. They’re just easier to get on and off of, about 17 inches high called Comfort Height Toilets.

Danny Lipford: Yeah that makes a lot of sense, I know a lot of people do request those. Hey, your cabinet guys did a great job here in creating the countertop that she’ll able to roll right under.

Dan Bawden: Right. You’ll notice that this is completely open underneath here, we’ll protect the pipes with insulation, be sure that they don’t get too hot. And this will have a gorgeous granite top on it with a beautiful white sink. It’s going to look very, very fashionable when it’s done, and functional.

Danny Lipford: Now I also understand that you’re going to put in a special mirror here.

Dan Bawden: Right. We’re going to put a mirror in here that’s a beautiful beveled mirror that will tilt, adjust for anyone’s needs. So if you’re a regular person standing here using the mirror you would have it straight, if you’re in a wheelchair you could tilt it down a little bit and it will be at the perfect angle for you to brush your teeth and do your grooming.

Danny Lipford: Well, I’ll tell you, Fran did a great job in picking out colors and all the style of tile that definitely doesn’t like any type of institutional look to it.

Dan Bawden: No it doesn’t, and that’s the mark of good design in any case is to have it look personalized to the home owner and not look institutional.

Danny Lipford: Now there’s a lot to know about the aging in place concept and we’re going to cover a lot more of it in just a few minutes.

Announcer: Let’s join Danny at the Home Center to check out this week’s best new product. Brought to you by the Home Depot.

Danny Lipford: By now probably everybody in the country has at least one wet dry vac. Now you may have chosen one of the real industrial strength models or one of the small portable units but either way they all do a great job in cleaning up any liquid spill that you may have or maybe some of the sawdust that you’re creating out in the workshop.

But they do take up a fair amount of very valuable floor space in any of these areas, so how about one that mounts to the wall? It’s called the Store and Go.

Now this one from Ridgid has the mounting bracket that you attach to the wall and then the unit can clip on or off the mounting bracket so that you still can carry it around your house or shop if you need it, and the bracket itself serves as a nice holder for some of the hose that comes with the unit and you have a 14-foot hose and one that’s 7-foot long, so you have 21 feet of hose to reach out and around any of your work space to clean that up.

Also, you won’t have to worry about finding an extension cord near by because you have a cord that’s 20 feet long, so that will take care of that. And you got a convenient on and off switch right in the front and you have a number of accessories that will hook to any of the hoses to make your cleaning even easier.

All of this together, with all of the extensions, all of the hose, everything we talked about is only around 100 dollars.

Contractor Dan Bawden Houston’s office is a renovated home that also serves as a showroom full of options for aging in place.

Dan Bawden: Hey, Danny, let me show you something down here on this front door.

Danny Lipford: Ok.

Dan Bawden: If you’ll notice right here, there’s no threshold, remember how there was a metal one on the Sanders’ house?

We installed one of those door bottoms that I was telling you about on the bottom here that has a rubber strip that comes down and seals out the weather and the bugs and if you push that pin on the end you’ll see how it raises and lowers.

Danny Lipford: Oh ok. So when this pushes against the jam when it’s closed, it automatically just goes right down to the floor.

Dan Bawden: Exactly.

Danny Lipford: Well, that’s pretty cool, that can go on any door I guess.

Dan Bawden: That’s right, works great. Our bathrooms are another thing we have in our showroom here, to illustrate some attractive design aging in place features.

For example this faucet right here, called a waterfall faucet works very easily. It’s a single handle lever faucet, don’t even need fingers to turn it on or off.

Danny Lipford: Well, that’s a very modern looking arrangement here too.

Dan Bawden: Yeah, you’d never know that that had some aging in place advantages to it. You know showers another area where people need a lot of help with aging in place. So we’ve done a shower in here that’s a moderately priced approach as oppose to one that we did recently that had some high end features.

Danny Lipford: Yeah. I understand that you did one that had steam because I think the gentleman benefited from the steam shower.

Dan Bawden: Yeah. He had a muscle disorder so he needed steam, and a steam room in the shower. That’s a more expensive kind of thing but this is a very moderately priced thing.

This grab bar for example, very attractive looking piece of hardware, it matches the finishes of the other pieces. This is available at a home center, at any home center near you.

This kind of hardware right here, again, is a lever handle so it can be operated with a hand that may not have full use of the fingers. But this is my favorite thing right here, this slide bar shower head can be used up here for a tall person, or can be lowered down here for a child, or someone in a wheelchair.

Of course this lifts off so that you can use it to wash your dog or rinse your hair or whatever you like, so it’s a very versatile kind of thing.

Danny Lipford: Yeah. These are real easy, I’ve seen those a lot, and being able to just slide them up and down like this, it’s pretty cool.

Dan Bawden: Yeah. It’s pretty neat.

Danny Lipford: And I know a lot of people whether they are physically challenged or not love to have a seat in their shower.

Dan Bawden: Absolutely, it’s not just for ladies who love to shave their legs, this is actually very useful for someone who gets a little tired from standing up when they’re bathing, and children love it too. This is just a very handy feature and not an expensive one to put it.

Hey, I’ve got a door I want to show you over here.

Danny Lipford: Ok.

Dan Bawden: Take a look at these hinges over here. These are special hinges called swing away hinges, and they allow the door to swing completely out of the way of the opening.

You know sometimes this gains you just enough extra inches so that you can get through the door with a wheelchair or a walker without having to do a bunch of extra remodeling.

Danny Lipford: Well that’s definitely a lot cheaper than having to widen a doorway.

Dan Bawden: Absolutely. You know we like to build with a lot of extra natural sunlight in our projects, too.

Danny Lipford: Now what benefit is that for someone that is say is aging in place?

Dan Bawden: Well, it allows you to have more natural light in the room because you lose your ability to see light as you get older, so we need more light to read for example.

So we do this with two methods, we have two kinds of skylights we put up: regular, traditional, non-leaking skylights and also the tubular skylights, which are a little less expensive to put in.

Danny Lipford: Yeah. Those are real popular and you can get those in some areas of rooms, and some parts of the house that you can’t get the traditional skylight.

Dan Bawden: That’s exactly right, because they’re a little smaller. If you look over our heads right here, we’ve got a remote control that will actually open not only the shades on these skylights, but also the skylight itself, so you can let in fresh air.

If you’re in a wheelchair for example the remote makes it very easy to manipulate all of the functions of the skylight. It’s wonderful.

Danny Lipford: Well, Dan, you’ve got it all figured out and I’ve learned a lot about aging in place that I never at all, and I hope that our viewers did as well. And when we come back we’ll take a look at the Sanders’ bathroom and see how everything turned out there.

Announcer: Let’s head outside for Around the Yard with lawn and garden expert Tricia Craven Worley. Brought to you by TimberTech composite decking.

Danny Lipford: Tricia always has some great tips to make your yard work go a little easier. Here’s one about gathering up leaves.

Tricia Craven Worley: Well, Danny, it’s true that there are lots of ways to gather up leaves and of course trash bags work, but I’ve taken a medium size box, this is about 24 inches by about 18, cut off three of the flaps and left one.

And on the bottom I’ve put a tape that’s kind of a reinforced tape to keep it shut. Now this flap actually has two purposes, one is to haul it away, but look at what this does. Even if I were by myself I’d be able to put my foot on it and still be able to rake in the leaves.

Now, if you use a larger box, I think that it could be a little bit problematical because it could be just a little bit too big to maneuver and might get out of shape over time.

Another fun thing about the box is after you’ve used it if you want to store it you can just cut that tape and fold it flat and then just tape it again.

Danny Lipford: Yes, this is pretty handy because if you have like a wheelbarrow and you put the leaves in there many times you have to reach and take this right back out so I can see where this could be real convenient.

Tricia Craven Worley: Yeah, and you can see it’s not very heavy at all.

Danny Lipford: I think it’s light enough I could actually get it over my neighbor’s fence there.

Tricia Craven Worley: Danny, don’t even think about it.

Danny Lipford: What a great idea. Taking a nice older home like this and converting it to an office slash showroom to illustrate exactly what needs to be done to a home to make it more accessible.

The idea certainly worked well for the Sanders’ family. All the modifications and the bathroom renovation is complete and it just turned out fantastic. Dan and his crew did a really good job.

Now if you need more information on aging in place or to find a CAPS contractor in your area check out our website at dannylipford.com. Hey thanks for being with us.



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