APAZ ARCHITECT, AIA
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 doesnt 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 childrens 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
dont try and generalize things, Paz explains. Each case is
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,
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 Pazs 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 dont 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 doesnt 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 thats 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