Home Sweet Home for Life

Adapting a home for aging in place is a sound investment—and a lot easier on maturing bodies.

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 The designer considered flooring and furnishings when creating a first-floor master suite that can accommodate homeowners who might someday use a walker or wheelchair. For example, the carpeting is low pile with firm padding, which is ideal for wheelchairs, and the chairs in the reading nook are firm and easy to get out of. Photograph by Thom ThompsonWhen the toilet in her powder room broke, the owner was thrilled. It meant she could replace it guilt-free with the same type of elevated toilet as in the bathroom of a first-floor master suite that she and her husband had recently added to their North Wilmington home. The addition was intended to free up space for visiting family, but more important, it was designed to accommodate the couple should their mobility someday become limited.

“His parents both ended up in wheelchairs, and he fears the same could happen to him,” the owner says. The addition, completed a year ago, includes an oversized bedroom with sitting area, a large bathroom suite with walk-in shower and separate toilet room, two walk-in closets, an office and a laundry room. It connects to the original living area through an attractive vestibule with bookshelves and storage areas for the grandchildren’s toys.

“If we ever needed to, we could live comfortably entirely on the first floor,” she says.

That’s because Rita Wilkins, president of Design Services in Wilmington, used elements of universal design throughout the addition, from little touches like elevating the front-loading washer and dryer to making hallways and doorways wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Because the front door is approached via several steps, the addition also has a separate entrance from the driveway that can be ramped if necessary.

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