Aging in Place Addition in Vancouver

Every once in awhile we get to do a project that really has an impact on someone’s life. We’re not talking about a glorious kitchen or bathroom remodel – those are luxuries but not really life changing. In this project we got to help a family adapt to new circumstances by building an addition onto the daughter’s house so Mom would have a safe, yet comfortable living area that gives her independence.

This was not the original plan for Kathryn, who moved into the Pacific Northwest from Texas. She wanted to be closer to her daughter Suzanne. But soon after she moved into the area, she injured her leg in  fall and she has been using a walker since. So her daughter offered to build an addition to her Washougal, WA home that would offer privacy, yet some proximity to Mom.

That’s where we came in. As an Aging in Place certified builder, we’re well versed in the needs of people who are planning to stay in their homes as they grow older. But Suzanne and Kathryn also wanted something that would suit the style of the rest of the home and not look too institutional.

We built a 1,012-square-foot addition on the back of the main house. It has a kitchenette, living room, bedroom, bathroom and laundry area, with a separate entrance and a lockable door into the main house.

Some of the Aging in Place features include:

  • Walkways – Wide walkways are built throughout, including the hall, between the kitchen island and cabinets, around the bed, and in the bathroom. These help with access for people with walkers or wheelchairs.
  • Thresholds and Floors – Thresholds are kept as flat as possible. Flooring includes wood where possible. In living areas we installed a thick, flat berber wool carpet, which makes it easier for Kathryn to maneuver her walker.
  • Kitchen – The cooktop and microwave were installed lower than normal to allow for easier access, and we installed a dishwasher drawer at waist level to eliminate a lot of bending over and reaching.
  • Doors – Double pocket doors are used for access to the bedroom and bath.  While typically not ideal in an aging-in-place projects because of the finger latches (this was not a problem for Kathryn), this makes opening and closing the doors easier because you don’t have to maneuver around a pocket door when you are using a walker.
  • Bathroom – In the bathroom, there’s a lot of space to move around. The shower is large with no threshold to allow for easy wheelchair access if that’s needed in the future. To do this, we lowered the framing in the shower floor to make the concrete shower pan slightly lower than the rest of the floor. We then added waterproofing a few feet out from the shower and created a very slight slope so water would drain back into the main shower area easily. Grab bars and a sliding shower head were installed to help with bathing.

Not just a place to age, but a home

Along with these features we created a beautiful, inviting space that reflects the tastes of Kathryn – but does not look like it was built just for aging-in-place purposes.  In fact, if someone walked into the space I don’t think they would even recognize any of the aging-in-place accommodations built into the space.

We added Corian countertops with white painted cabinets. The rooms are trimmed in larger profile moldings. Wainscoting is used to add a country appeal. The wood floors add warmth and the new custom deck and separate garden areas outside make inviting retreats during our all-too-short but glorious summers.

We also added an environmentally friendly touch by installing energy efficient ductless heat pumps in the addition.  With the size of the addition this was a much more cost effective solution than tying into the main house gas furnace – which would have had to be re-sized to accommodate the additional space.

This project serves as a reminder that just because you’re designing a space to accommodate your later years doesn’t mean it has to look that way. You can still have the amenities you’ll need and the style that makes you feel at home. And that at-home feeling makes all the difference for this family.

To learn more about this important topic, see our multi-story aging-in-place series that will guide you through the issues and choices you have.

If you have an aging in place type project, please call us at 360-571-7027 or fill our our Free Consultation Form.