Home Adaptations for Independent Living


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Project Files: Designed for Aging-in-Place

Posted on June 11, 2014 at 7:38 PM Comments comments (2067)

Here’s a look at another bathroom project recently completed.  We were asked by adult children of an elderly couple to modify this bathroom to suit their parents. One of the parents used a walker at all times, the other a cane.  This existing bath off the master bedroom had a small step down shower adjacent to a garden style bathtub.  Neither bath nor shower was functional or safe for these clients and the couple never used the garden tub.    



The clients’ wish list for their redone bath included more storage and a second sink.  The existing 9 1/2’ x 12’ bathroom while fairly large, did not have a linen closet and while there was a 60" vanity, part of it was wasted with an extended counter without either a sink or storage cabinets underneath. In addition,the toilet was standard height which was becoming increasingly difficult for both parents to use and there were no grab bars anywhere in the bathroom. 

Our plan then was to remove the shower stall and bathtub in order to reconfigure that area and build a walk-in shower with adjacent linen closet.  We also pulled out the old single sink vanity in order to install a double vanity with a sink for each user.


Our Work Plan

remove existing tub, toilet and 5’ vanity 
remove existing step down shower to include glass shower enclosure & wall tile     
cap and reroute plumbing lines and close floor drain
remove all bathroom floor tile

fill in shower floor (4”) and bring to same height as bathroom floor 
frame linen closet:  3’ wide x 2’8” deep
frame shower:  60” wide by 42” deep with entrance opening at 32”
build shower bench 3’6” wide x 18” deep x 18” hi    
build 9” x 12” shower niche; bottom of niche at 46” A.F.F. 
install blocking at (2) grab bar locations in shower

reroute plumbing as per plan
install shower valve and two-way diverter, rain head and handheld shower rheads      
install 2 trench drains: 1 in opening to shower and 1 along rear wall as shown on plan v
vanity:  install plumbing for additional sink 
install new sinks (2) and lav faucets (2)
toilet: replace existing toilet with new Kohler comfort height toilet

tile bath floor and shower floor, walls and shower seat; top of seat to be granite
Install 1 row of 4” tile as baseboard as required
install (1) 24” horizontal grab bar in shower at 34” A.F.F. and (1) 18” vertical grab bar with bottom of bar at    
   48” A.F.F 
install (1) 24” diagonal grab bar adjacent to toilet; bottom of bar at 30” A.F.F.
install 3 new vanity cabinets:  2 sink bases, 1 drawer base
install granite vanity top
replace existing exhaust fan with new fan in same location
paint bathroom walls and closet door & trim

  Framing for linen closet on the left and walk-in shower 
  on the right

  You can see the new plumbing in place in the shower and the
  old shower plumbing still needing to be removed in the back
  wall of the linen closet

The locations for the two linear shower drains. The shower
floor is sloped to the rear drain and catches all the floor water 
while the front drain is an extra measure to catch water that
might spray off a body while showering.


A view from the doorway through the newly tiled bathroom. 
Shower to the right, vanity and toilet to be placed to the left.


New double vanity in place waiting for granite top and plumbing

The completed bath - a more functional, updated bathroom for aging-in-place!

 Double sink vanity with drawer space



  Ceiling mounted rainhead shower head plus handheld shower head
  situated near built-in seat.  Non slip floor tile, levered
  handled faucets, and grab bars complete this safe
  and functional yet stylish shower


Susan Luxenberg, Pres.
HomeSmart LLC

Product Spotlight: Pocket Door Closers

Posted on February 24, 2014 at 4:19 PM Comments comments (5591)
We have recently completed some accessibility projects for people in wheelchairs and replaced their hinged bedroom and bathroom doors with pocket doors.  In doing so, we looked for an easier way to close and open the door than the standard little door pull usually inserted in a pocket door's edge.  We found a product called Pocket Door EZ-Closer which allows someone to quickly release the pocket door from its cavity with one bump or push. and prevents the pocket door from slamming into the pocket frame when the door is being opened. Its' spring loaded action works as a shock absorber, helping to prevent damage to the pocket door hardware.

We have found the EZ-Closer to be very easy to use and simple to install.  It works with new or existing doors and door styles, is flush fitting and has been durability tested on doors weighting up to 170 lbs.  It requires no maintenance and has a 5 year manufacturer’s warranty. 

There are two models available, both seem to function identically.
 Steel  - steel casing and plunger  Molded - glass filled nylon casing and plunger  

For more product information, installation requirements and pricing,go to

Susan Luxenberg
HomeSmart LLC

Aiding the Caregiver

Posted on December 25, 2013 at 2:11 PM Comments comments (1955)
We talk about adapting or building homes for aging in place as being critical for safe and independent aging,   most often with the focus on the aging client themselves. Adaptations include replacing tubs (when climbing over a tub wall gets too difficult ) with walk in showers, or installing comfort height toilets to counteract the difficulties many people  encounter when getting up from a seated position, or adding bars that help with balance issues.  Without question, all of these measures contribute greatly to safety and independence as we age. It's important to acknowledge that creating a barrier free environment will also positively impact the types of caregivers we attract and the quality of care we may receive in the future.
We recently adapted a home for a client who required a wheelchair for mobility.  Her biggest problems centered around her bathroom.  Between the narrow doorway and overall configuration of the space, she was unable to get her wheelchair inside the bathroom, relying  instead on her caregivers carrying her (or more accurately dragging her) through the bath in order to use the toilet. She admitted that she had considered renovating her bath to accommodate her failing health, but as she explained, her caregivers were "wonderful and willing to compensate and carry her throughout the home when necessary." It came as an unpleasant surprise and rude awakening when one of her aides dropped her en route from doorway to toilet, prompting our client to call us for help.  Our initial conversations included her main caregiver who admitted she did not like having to carry our client at all and was worried not only about the client's safety but her own. She expressed that if we could not provide solutions to the restrictive bathroom configuration, she would need to resign for fear she would ultimately injure her client. 
So let's acknowledge that if we want to retain quality caregivers, we need to set up safe, easy to negotiate spaces not only for ourselves but for them as well. Caregiving is often a difficult, stressful job and the last thing any responsible caregiver wants is to cause harm to their loved one, or get injured themselves and unable to do their job.
And while we're on the topic of caregiving, I recently received an email from a reader who found himself thrust into the role of family caregiver when his wife was diagnosed with a rare and deadly cancer three months after giving birth to their baby daughter.   Happily, his wife ultimately won her battle and survived the ordeal.  What they went through however proved to be such an extreme learning experience for them both, that he wanted to share his thoughts about effective caregiving in the hopes it would benefit others.   
“In the beginning it was an intense whirlwind of emotion and confusion as I did not fully understand what exactly needed to be done.  I had to quickly learn what was required of me and go above and go beyond these requirements for my wife.  I had to remain strong for my wife, my daughter, and myself. 
During my trials, and the trials of the many other caregivers I met along my journey, many lessons were learned.  Here are some of the best tips for being a caregiver that I have learned from my experiences.
Knowing all the options you have regarding treatment and all possible outcomes will help you feel more prepared for any decisions you might have to make.  Write any questions you may have down so that you don’t forget them when you are with the doctor.  Remain organized with your information and your questions, and don’t be afraid to ask about even the most minor things. 
Prioritize everything that needs to be done. You may find yourself overwhelmed with everything, but prioritizing will help you organize and can make the entire experience easier.   
Consider hiring and/or enlisting the help of others for those things you don’t absolutely need to be responsible for.  Friends and family are often eager to help, but they really don’t know what would be most helpful.   A little direction can go a long way.  Asking for and accepting their help can make things considerably easier on you and your loved one. This alone will go a long way towards lowering your stress levels and helping you focus on things you need to get done. 
When a loved one is ill and everything falls onto you, taking some time for yourself can make you feel selfish.  This is not the case however and can actually be very beneficial.  Taking this time to unwind can lower your stress levels, and allow you to focus greater attention to your loved one as well as the many things that need to get done.  If you fail to take any time for yourself, your stress levels will remain high and your ability to do anything will be greatly reduced.
There are many things that can help you remain organized and focused.  Clutter and disorganization will lead to higher stress levels and an inability to fully understand what needs to be done and where priorities lie.  Keeping a notepad handy to jot down reminders will help immensely.  Keep all important paperwork and information sorted into folders in one place nearby.  This way you never find yourself frantically looking for that one piece of paper with the important information you need at the last minute. 

 Susan Luxenberg
 HomeSmart LLC



Project Files: Updating a Bathroom for Accessibility

Posted on July 15, 2013 at 6:41 PM Comments comments (480)
We’ve recently worked on a number of bathrooms needing modifications, all for clients with vastly differing physical issues.  Regardless of the underlying issues, however, the remedies are the same –  building walk in showers, replacing low toilets with higher ones, and widening doorways seem to come along with most bathroom modifications. 

A recent project  involved widening a standard bathroom for scooter accessibility which resulted in opening one of the bath walls into an adjoining bedroom closet, removing an old tub so as to build a walk in shower, shifting the location of the toilet, and removing a standard vanity so as to build a roll under one.

Here’s the original layout of this 8’ x 11’ bathroom:



   View of the existing bath from the doorway  


crowded toilet with little access



Standard bathtub



Narrow doorway 

To accommodate our client who who wanted to bring her wheelchair or scooter into the bathroom, we needed to create a wide turnaround area that would allow her to move freely between toilet, shower and vanity.  We designed the following layout:

The general scope of work was as follows:
·         Remove the wall between the bathroom and guest room closet and close in the closet from the guest 
          bedroom side to gain an additional 3' of width in the bath (new bath size: 11' x 11')
·         Shift the location of the bathroom door and expand it to 36”
·         Build a curb-less shower , enclosed by two ½ walls topped with glass panels
·         Move tub drain location and replace with trench drains along shower walls
·         Install new tile walls in shower, floor to ceiling, and behind toilet
·         Install new tile floor throughout bathroom and into shower
·         Relocate existing electrical to work with new fixture location
·         Install can lights over vanity and toilet and fan/heat/light adjacent to shower
·         Remove the existing vanity and replace it with a 36” roll under counter, new sink and faucet
·         Build a 24” linen closet adjacent to the vanity
·         Paint bathroom
·         Install new 36” hinged door for guest room
·         Rebuild guest room closet on alternate wall 


Toilet plumbing was relocated to the adjoining wall for direct access from doorway and sufficient room to maneuver.


Shower walls in process; you can  see the wood framework in the corner for a floating corner granite shower seat. 


Non-skid flooring tiles were installed throughout bathroom and shower.

       Shower half-walls being measured for glass splash guards.              

             Vanity top, sink and faucet installed; open
             underneath for scooter access


Curb-less shower entry; shower floor sloped to trench drains installed along interior shower walls which keep all water within shower boundaries and off the bathroom floor


After months of frustration at being unable to take a shower or use her bathroom independently, the end result was a happy client whose updated bathroom now functioned to meet her needs. 

   Susan Luxenberg, Pres.
   HomeSmart LLC

The Ongoing Problem of Elder Abuse

Posted on May 1, 2013 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (3203)
The problem of elder abuse is not going away.  With millions of cases of elder abuse reported each year, this has become a very serious issue.   Maybe it’s a combination of more seniors sharing homes with their families and the stresses most people live under today.  Certainly the struggle to care for an elderly adult who is sick or impaired, either physically or mentally, along with the financial burden of caring for an elderly individual, can cause stress on a caregiver and increase the likelihood of abuse.  

The victim is often female, over the age of 75, dependent on the abuser, isolated and frequently impaired.  The abusers are frequently financially dependent, isolated, inexperienced, unrealistic and impatient caregivers.  And while abusers can be spouses, children, hired caregivers, or any other adults with whom elderly individuals have contact, the greatest risk for the victim comes from those with whom they live.   Family dynamics are a major contributing factor to adult abuse; it is known that in 90% of all reported elder abuse cases, the abuser is a family member. Researchers have estimated that anywhere from five to twenty-three percent of all caregivers are physically abusive.  

What are the indications that someone is not being treated with proper care?  Each state might differ slightly in its definition, but the following comes from Florida’s Department of Elder Affairs:

Physical Abuse is the infliction or the threat to inflict physical pain or injury on an elderly person. This includes pushing, striking, slapping, kicking, pinching, restraining, shaking, beating burning, hitting, shoving or other acts that can cause harm to an individual.

Emotional or Psychological Abuse is the infliction of mental stress, pain, or anguish through non-verbal or verbal actions including  verbal berating, harassment, intimidation, threats of punishment of deprivation, criticism, demeaning comments, coercive behavior, isolation from family and friends.

Financial Exploitation involves improper use of the victim’s funds, property or assets, cashing checks without permission, forging signatures, coercing or deceiving an older person into signing a document, using an ATM card without permission.

Sexual Abuse is non-consensual sexual contact of any kind including assault or battery, rape, sodomy, coerced nudity or sexually explicit photographing

Neglect is indicated with unexpected or unexplained deterioration of health, personal care,  or living situation, inadequate food, clothing and/or shelter.

We all need to become educated about what elder abuse is and how it can be prevented.  In the event that you know an elderly individual who is the victim of abuse, there are many resources from public authorities to legal professionals, you can contact.  Bottom line --  if  you believe someone you know is the victim of elder abuse, seek help.   You can call the toll free hotline: 1-800-96-abuse.  All calls are confidential.

    Susan Luxenberg
    HomeSmart LLC

Product Spotlight: Key-less Entry

Posted on March 17, 2013 at 3:39 PM Comments comments (1347)
It's hard keeping up with all the new gadgets emerging in the home automation market and disappointingly, many turn out to be nothing more than toys. 

Lockitron, a key-less entry system that fits over an existing deadbolt lock and allows a door to be locked or unlocked using a smartphone, looks like a product that’s actually suitable for the aging in place market. Any smartphone can use Lockitron through a simple two-button application. You can use your phone to lock or unlock the door from anywhere in the world and share the ability to operate the door lock with caregivers, friends or family. Any time a door outfitted with Lockitron is unlocked via phone (or key), the system will send a message to your phone.  

I particularly like the fact that Lockitron slips over an existing lock, making it easy to install and remove. Placing it on the interior of a door, as opposed to the exterior, keeps it immune from vandalism. Lockitron's batteries last for up to one year and the system  sends a notification when batteries are running low.   Right now the company is taking orders for May delivery. You can read more about this product on the Lockitron website:  www.lockitron.comor watch a video interview with one of the founders at

Susan Luxenberg
HomeSmart LLC

A Very Special Event

Posted on March 9, 2013 at 9:11 AM Comments comments (2386)

The nation’s Largest Free Event for Kids & Adults with Special Needs Invites America to Attend 5th Annual Day-Long Party in BOCA RATON, FL

The nation’s largest, annual, free-event for people with physical and/or intellectual challenges, the Boating & Beach Bash for People with Disabilities, will take place Saturday, March 16, 2013, from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM, in Spanish River Park, State Road A1A, Boca Raton, FL.

The event encourages families with a child or adult member with disabilities, to spend a long weekend in Florida during the nicest time of year, early spring. “We annually roll out the red carpet to welcome people from all across the United States,” says Bash director Jay Van Vechten. “Florida residents and visitors alike have discovered the Bash is the one national event that celebrates diversity by offering a safe, accessible, atmosphere for all ages, with any type of physical and/or intellectual disability, their caregivers and families. 

Last year, 4496 guests registered at the gates, while 501 volunteers lined up to assist with hospitality and helping attendees have the best possible time. Five thousand guests are expected this year. Everything for the day is free to all participants.

See you there!

Susan Luxenberg
HomeSmart LLC

Design Trends for the Boomer Generation

Posted on February 11, 2013 at 8:08 PM Comments comments (545)
Baby Boomers are definitely having an impact on housing trends as they demand more sophisticated options and choices for their housing.  Some are selling off the homes in which they raised their families and moving to smaller houses near their children, or to locations with milder climates. Others are planning to stay put and redesign their homes to meet their changing lifestyles.    

Whatever the choice, stay or move, there are certain design features coming into greater demand that reflect the preferences of the Boomer population -- and builders are paying attention.    

First floor bedrooms and bathrooms.  According to the National Association of Home Builders, more than 40% of new homes have master suites downstairs, a 15% increase over the past decade.  It's the Boomers’ desire to not have to climb up and down stairs that's driving this trend.    

Larger bathrooms that include dual vanities and curb- less showers.  Even this "stay young forever" generation can't avoid the aches and pains that make a walk in shower such a joy.  These showers have now become showpieces on their own, outfitted to the hilt with beautiful tiles and stone, multiple shower heads, jet sprays, even steam.    

Flex space.  This is an extra room that can easily adjust to a person's changing lifestyle.  So the space might start out as an exercise room, turn into a home office, then later serve as a guest room or caregiver's room.

Central control centers.  Baby boomers are tech savvy and they want all the best and newest tech amenities.  Control centers for Wi-Fi, security, lighting, heating along with systems that manage all media sources are often requested.  Media rooms with surround sound are becoming more common for this group, who now have the time to enjoy it.   

Wider doorways and hallways tend to make a house look more gracious, are easier to navigate when moving large pieces of furniture, and have the added benefit of increased functionality and accessibility should anyone wind up wheelchair bound in the future.   

Bigger windows and increased lighting.  To accommodate a person's need for increased lighting as they age, builders are adding larger windows to let on more natural light.  At the same time under cabinet lights and stairway lights have also gained in popularity. 


   Susan Luxenberg 
   HomeSmart LLC

Home for the Holidays 2012

Posted on February 11, 2013 at 4:49 PM Comments comments (603)
Note:  I published this blog post last year around Thanksgiving but believe the information is important enough to post again.  Statistics remind us that fall prevention is key to independence as we get older, and features in a home that pose no problem when we're at our physical best often become more difficult to negotiate with aging frailties.    

It’s holiday time which means that you may be either visiting or being visited by your parents.  This is a perfect time to assess your parents’ safety and comfort whether in your home or theirs. 

I recently gave a presentation at a senior complex and spoke about safety concerns that could be found in almost every home.  That triggered a lively conversation about the problems these seniors encountered when visiting their kids:  no grab bars in the bathroom, slippery shower and tub floors, no place to sit down when showering, steps that were not clearly delineate, stairs without handrails, or poorly lit hallways or staircases.  Most of those I spoke with said that they were reluctant to ask their adult kids to make any permanent changes to their own homes or install any special equipment, etc.  I have no doubt that if their kids thought about it, they would be happy to provide their aging parents with safer, more comfortable surroundings.  And truthfully these modifications would benefit everyone in the home. 

So here’s a simple list.  None of these items are costly and all can be done quickly:
 1.    Reduce tripping hazards by removing books, shoes, laundry, and toys from stairs; 
       ensure there are clear pathways through all rooms  
2.    Install handrails on stairs and steps; bright colored tape can be applied at the edge 
       of steps and stairs to delineate floor level changes. 
3.    Increase the lighting at the top and bottom of the stairs; put bright lights over all 
       porches and walkways 
4.   Store frequently used items in easy-to-reach places so that using a step stool or 
      chair is not necessary. 
5.   Small throw rugs are a hazard.  Either remove them completely or tape them to 
      the floor with double stick tape. 
6.   Have night lights or battery operated lights in the bedroom, hallways and bathrooms. 
7.   Apply non-slip strips or non-slip coatings in bathtubs and showers  
8.   Install grab bars in showers and tubs, appropriately anchored (no suction ones, 
9.    Purchase an inexpensive shower bench or chair which can be taken in and out of the 
      tub or shower as required.   

 After all, an injury from a fall is one the biggest dangers the over-65 population faces and one that often results in a loss of independence.  Implementing the safety measures mentioned above can substantially reduce the chance of injury to your parents and allow for a safer, happier holiday season for all.

Happy Holidays!

  Susan Luxenberg
  HomeSmart LLC

Recent Questions: Bathroom Design for Boomers

Posted on January 26, 2013 at 2:24 PM Comments comments (1204)
QuestionMy husband and I are planning to completely remodel our master bathroom.  We recognize that at this point in our lives it might be smart if we incorporated features that would allow us to comfortably use our bathroom as we age.  What do you recommend for those of us baby boomers looking to upgrade our bathrooms?

Answer:  You might be surprised to learn that I’d recommend the same bathroom renovations to a baby boomer as I’d suggest to a younger family or an older couple. Today’s trend is towards universal design – that design which allows everyone, regardless of age or physical ability, ease of use.  One benefit of universal design is that as we get older and our lifestyle changes, we can still comfortably use our home without need for additional adaptations or equipment. As an added bonus, planning renovations from a universal design perspective ensures an increase in the resale value of your home and opens to door to many more potential buyers.   

So here are universal design elements to consider: 

   Try to create a bathroom large enough to allow for a 5’ circle in front of the plumbing fixtures.  When space is at a premium, do not create a separate room for the toilet or shower but instead keep the space open. 

   Make sure the bathroom doorway is minimally 32” wide, preferably 36”.  Doors should swing out rather than in or you could install a pocket door. The doorway threshold should be flush with the adjacent flooring.

   All flooring materials must be non-slip. Look for matte finished tiles and natural stone, instead of glazed tiles or polished stones. 

   Select a comfort height (16 – 18” height vs. 14-15”) toilet or wall hung toilet which are space saving and can be mounted at an individualized height. These toilets are becoming more and more popular for people of all ages.
   Install a curb-less shower which has no lip or threshold at the entry. The floor slopes towards the drain and away from the rest of the bathroom floor.  A swing out, frame-less door or shower rod and curtain also help keep water within the shower area. 

   Build in a shower bench which can be sized as large as you’d like or purchase a folding shower seat that can be mounted to the shower wall.  

   Use a handheld shower head mounted on a slide bar. These versatile shower heads are easy to use when standing or sitting and are an aid when younger children are using the shower. All come with multiple settings that allow you to control the flow of water. 

   Install grab bars in the shower and tub.  A typical placement is one vertical bar to be used as a hand hold when entering a shower/tub and one horizontal bar placed along the long wall. With the advent of special mounting brackets that allow grab bars to be installed securely into drywall faced studs, installation is no longer dependent on having special backing behind the walls.  If you find in the future that for example, you require grab bars in the toilet area, you’ll be able to have them installed them as needed. Grab bars now come in so many different styles and colors that they no longer have to look institutional.  If your local hardware stores carry nothing other than the chunky standard stainless steel bar, check online. You'll be surprised at the range of choices you have. 

   Consider a wall mounted sink or floating vanity that would allow for a mobility device or wheelchair to easily roll up under. If you want to maintain a vanity cabinet, you can still use a wall mounted vanity –just set it at least 9” off the floor to allow for a wheelchair footrest underneath. 

   Choose accessible faucets that do not require a strong grip to operate.  Between single handled or double handled lever style faucets, sensor, and touch faucets there are many designs and styles to choose from.

Now with these elements in mind, take a look at these bathrooms to see how universal design was applied in each.  






In every one of these bathrooms you'll find features that not only will adapt to your physical needs as you age, but will also be appreciated by people of any age. We've come a long way in understanding how our traditional design approach to bathrooms has not really been suitable for people throughout their lives. Just remember as you make your selections to think through not just your present lifestyle but what might be in the future.  

 Susan Luxenberg
 HomeSmart LLC