Three blueprints are spread across desks where judges sit examining designs. Next to each one is an essay explaining the cost to build or remodel a house that would accommodate the needs of an elderly couple with several medical conditions.
The Home Design Solutions competition, sponsored by the National Aging in Place Council (NAPC) and hosted on Sept. 23, 2011, at Adventist University of Health Sciences gave occupational therapists, builders, and interior designers an opportunity to put their brains together to develop smart housing for the nations’ burgeoning baby boomers.
Each contestant was given a case study describing the situation of an imaginary couple named Mr. and Mrs. Boomer. Due to severe arthritis, Mr. Boomer has trouble caring for his wife, who has to use a walker because of her Type-II diabetes. The Boomer’s adult children have strongly encouraged their parents to move into a retirement home, but Mr. and Mrs. Boomer want to stay put.
The situation is not uncommon, says Dr. Jeannette Steeves, one of the competition judges. According to her dissertation research, “99 percent of people want to age in place, but are not sure the best way to do it.” As a result, many end up selling their houses and moving in with family or to assisted living communities. But there are other, more affordable options.
Bill Ockenden, competition judge and president of WAO Builders, Inc., says for the price of six months in an assisted living facility, people could modify their homes and stay right where they are. In fact, due to the increasing partnership between therapists, designers, and builders, he says people can “get something that looks like a million dollar house, not a hospital, but still meets their needs.”
The growing relationship between professions is exciting, says Tia Hughes, competition judge and chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy at Adventist University. Occupational therapists have been doing home assessments for years, but now that they can share their knowledge directly with builders and designers, it’s making an even bigger impact than before.
Janice Vickarayous, competition coordinator and interior designer, says most clients are surprised when they use the new features in their homes. “They’re used to depending on others for almost everything—feeding, dressing, using the restroom—so it brings back a lot of joy for them to have privacy or be able to take a shower on their own.”
For more information on aging in place, visit ageinplace.org.
By Rainey Park