Aging-in-Place Home Gets a Technological
by Anita Shaw
BOWIE, MD Growing old gracefully is something that most of us
aspire to. Fortunately, using today’s technological advances and
inspired designs can facilitate aging in place.
To that end, the LifeWise Home, located here, was created to
offer builders, remodelers, consumers and the aging profession an
education about products and design techniques that facilitate
aging in place.
Built by the NAHB Research Center as part of its Marketable,
Affordable, Durable and Entry-level Homes (MADE) project in the
National Research Home Park, it garnered collaboration and support
from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s
Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing program, the
National Housing Endowment and the National Center for Seniors’
Housing Research (NCSHR) through the U.S. Administration on Aging.
A number of manufacturers also made product donations.
“It was designed to be a house that you would move into at a
younger age [where you could stay in through the senior years],”
explains Deborah Boeglin, principal, Diversified Designers, Inc.
and LifeWise Project Kitchen Designer.
Technological features including a security system that provides
front door surveillance video on the television, computer
controlled lighting throughout the home and a voice recognition
system help make it more senior-friendly. Safety features such as
hand rails, non-slip flooring and lit pathways add to its
In the kitchen, accessibility and safety were key design issues.
Stainless steel appliances, provided by Whirlpool Corp., also
offered minimal upkeep combined with maximum function.
A raised-height dishwasher is useful for seniors, “so that
they’re not doing all of that bending to get to it,” Boeglin
The side-by-side refrigerator was chosen, according to Chad Garner,
project manager for the LifeWise and MADE homes, “because you can
store things lower in both the refrigerator and the freezer.”
The cooktop features controls on the front panel. “It’s easier
to see the controls, and people don’t have to reach across if they
get shaky,” comments Charlotte Wade, senior research analyst,
The kitchen cabinets, which were furnished by Aristokraft
Cabinetry, feature the Eastland door style and a dark cocoa glaze
finish, which gives the room a furniture aesthetic. “I also used
different mouldings and glass doors to add to the furniture feel,”
On the sink side of the room, the cabinets were installed at a
lower height. “Between the countertop and the bottom of the wall
cabinet, I left a 15-inch space, as opposed to the traditional
18-inch space,” Boeglin reports, “to make the upper cabinets easier
A 32-inch work surface that’s open from both sides and an open area
for wheelchair accessibility is also featured beneath the sink.
Amenities include roll-tray cabinets to the left of the
dishwasher, a base wastebasket cabinet and a Lazy Susan in the
Contrasting colors were used between the countertops and the
backsplash for clearer delineation. A light-colored stripe around
the edge of the countertop adds definition for the
MASTERING THE BATH
An open design was also the order for the master bathroom, which is
located on the first floor.
The bath cabinets are 30 inches in height, and feature an open
area beneath the sink for wheelchair accessibility. The sink sports
levered faucets for easy operation.
A Cielo jetted soaking tub from Whirlpool Corp., grab bars and
levered handles are a part of this area’s design.
The really accessible feature in the bathroom is the roll-in
shower from Comfort Designs Bathware. “I was looking for a roll-in
shower that you don’t have to recess into the floor,” Garner
states. “This is actually a one-piece fiberglass system. It has all
of the grab bars in it, the fold-up seat is mounted to it, and it
just sets right in.” A light is also featured in the shower, as
well as an adjustable-height, hand-held shower head.
The toilet from TOTO USA is a remote-controlled washlet that
washes the user front to back, and then dries. “It has a little
wand that will spray you down and blow you dry,” explains Wade.
To finish off the master bath, a home intercom system and
telephone was installed. “You can basically control the whole house
automation system from right in the bathroom,” reports Garner.