Aged in Comfort - Page 5

Carrying on Eichler living into the golden years with independence and satisfaction
Aged in Comfort
This Eichler added improved lighting conditions for senior living.
Aged in Comfort
This bathroom, designed by Klopf Architecture, is made senior and handicap friendly with a wall-hung vanity and widened doorway.

Additional lighting

In spite of all that natural light, Eichlers can still be dark by today's standards, since they lack built-in lighting. Lamps can help, but all of the bending and stooping necessary to use them can get tiresome, especially as we age.

While regular built-in lighting with automated controls or wall switches might be ideal, in an Eichler that usually requires cutting into the roof, which can be expensive, and may best be considered when roof replacement becomes a necessity.

Re-roofing is also an excellent time to consider upgrading your entire electrical system (since so much of the existing wiring would be exposed at that time) and adding skylights (a great way to bring additional light to hallways and kitchens, for instance).

Until you're ready to take on involved upgrades, consider other cost-effective ways to add lighting. As Klopf suggests, "A low-budget way to put lighting in the bedrooms, for instance, is to have your contractor open the wall, and use the power from the room's switched outlet [wall plug] to go straight up to a fixture that's mounted in the wall above the outlet—such as a sconce. So when you flip the switch, the fixture lights up."

There are also creative ways to brighten up rooms lined with naturally dark mahogany walls while trying to remain true to the home's original aesthetic. "For those who want to brighten up the space, but who also like the style of the mahogany, they might consider keeping mahogany on one wall, as an accent wall," and lightening up the others, Klopf says.

Uniform flooring

When it comes to accessibility and safety for seniors, the choice of flooring is also important. Given the Eichler's level, open floor plan, a smooth, uniform flooring material, preferably the same type throughout the home, is often recommended. And while flooring choices abound, some things are important to bear in mind when making age-friendly decisions.

"Putting in a uniform flooring surface throughout the whole house can also reduce trip hazards," says Klopf. While those little reducer strips, which are placed where carpet or wood stops and starts, are designed to be safe for a walker or wheelchair to roll over, it's always possible to trip at such points of transition.

Popular smooth flooring choices include engineered wood products, vinyl interlocking floating floors (available in a wide variety of looks and finishes, including wood and tile), and cork.

If you plan to remain in your home for the long term, now may be a good time to at least get a professional examination of your home's infrastructure: the foundation, sewer pipes, and electrical and radiant-heating systems. Original Eichler infrastructure systems, now 50 to 70 years old, are slipping away. The costs and potential disruptions associated with their replacement may be more feasible to take on before retirement years.

Whatever your future upgrade plans, it's smart to always consider incorporating ways to maintain and add age-friendly features to your home. Plan ahead today to prepare for conditions that will allow you—or the next owner, if that's the case—to enjoy those golden years comfortably and safely right where you are.


Photography: Sabrina Huang, Mariko Reed; and courtesy Keycon, Inc., Klopf Architecture

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