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“Redesigning your home so you can Stay Put”
By David R. Newman
Northwest Senior News

EUGENE- For the majority of older adults, staying in their own homes as long as feasible has been found to be a high priority. “The trend is to stay put,” as one expert says.
But medical needs and changing physical requirements may mean the old homestead doesn’t work any more, and the possibility of having to move looms large.
Not so fast, says long time Eugene architect Artemio Paz. In his view, there are a variety of ways that alterations can be made to a home to accommodate the challenges facing older adults with increasing physical limitations. This might include simply changing the hardware on doors and handles on faucets to make it easier on those with mobility issues or changing the color schemes with higher contrast paints to accommodate those with vision problems. For those with hearing problems, it could mean changing the acoustics of the house, which may mean a change in the surface materials.
And even when older adults move in with their children, intelligent changes can be made to the children’s homes to make it work for a multigenerational family.
The key element out of these generalizations: whatever remodeling and other changes seem feasible, they should be done on an individual basis. “The design needs to be done for a particular person, so don’t try and generalize things,” Paz explains. “Each case is unique.”
Paz began began focusing on needs of older adults when his design for commercial projects began incorporating mobility requirements called for by the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.
But spend some time with Paz and it becomes clear that he looks at architecture and design as integral and compassionate parts of a very human and very dynamic equation and not as stand-alone professions that respond to mandated requirements, building, codes, etc.
For older adults, a large portion of that equation includes what an older population looks for in a living space, particularly a space shared with others. “Older adults want to feel connected with other people, but they also need independent space to call their own and want to feel that they are not underfoot and a burden to others,” he explains.
It is from this basis that much of Paz’s design and remodeling suggestions come from, particularly when older move in with their children. For starter, he thinks it is important to look at any changes as “designed for long-term relationships of three to ten years.” And that means “not just rearranging the furniture.” Indeed it might mean something much more, like adding a separate entrance or a separate bathroom. Paz talks of one client whose aging parent had mobility problems but still wanted a high degree of privacy, so a bathroom was designed to meet both needs.
Paz cautions that it is important not to change too much too fast. Disabilities “don’t come on all at once,” he points out, but often progress over time. Even with that in mind, he warns making changes for the worst case scenario. “You try to bulletproof everything and spend four or five times what you need to spend,” he says. Instead, Paz suggests doing what needs to be done for the current situation, and then “reassess where you are” down the line.
To Paz, another important element is esthetics. “Integrated use does not mean having to change a home to an armor-platted hospital,” he points out. Indeed, ideally, changes to accommodate the needs of older adults “doesn’t obviate Th. esthetic and functional use for other people.”
With an aging population in this country, Paz sees more attention being paid nationwide to the specialized housing needs of the elderly. He points out that the American Institute of Architects (AIA) which has “just started reorganizing needs of the population.” The result: “more people are becoming aware of aging as an important element of design considerations.”
And that’s good for those who need help in accommodating their living arrangements to their physical conditions. From the viewpoint of architect Artemio Paz, “It is good to get help from someone who knows.”

 
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