article reprint from the Plymouth Review 03/23/2010
by Jeff Pederson, Sheboygan Falls News Editor
As the baby-boom population advances into retirement age, an increasingly large number of homeowners will be seeking updated interior design and remodeling plans to address changing needs.
In anticipation of an expanded senior population within the next several years, JT Construction of Elkhart Lake has joined forces with the Aging In Place program to help make the transition to senior living a bit easier for aging homeowners.
“Over the last several years I have become aware of the Aging in Place program, through my association with the Sheboygan County Homebuilders Association and the National Association of Home Builders,” said John Techel, who owns JT Construction with his wife Barb. “With much of the population growing older and moving into retirement age, you are going to see more homes being remodeled to meet the greater needs of seniors.”
According to Barb, the Aging in Place program strives to provide the convenience and safety-oriented updates and improvements, which allow seniors to remain living independently in their own homes for an extended period of time.
“The vast majority of the older population wants to remain living in their own homes, rather than moving into assisted living or other nursing home or home assistance arrangements,” she said. “Staying in their own home is important for many people, but the reality is that they can’t live just the way they did when they were younger.
“They need a little bit of help to get through daily life. That is where we come in.”
John said many different upgrades and improvements are available, to give seniors the safety, comfort and convenience they are seeking.
“For most people, it is important to keep as many things as possible on the first floor and to maintain open, level floor plans,” he said. “Non-slip flooring is important, as well as handrails for steps.
“Changing the door knobs has become a popular thing to do – going from the round knobs to the leverstyle door handles. People also choose to expand the width of hallways for easier access.”
Typically regarded as one of the most dangerous areas of a home, the bathroom is a main focus of many Aging in Place remodeling projects.
“Replacing bathtubs with walk-in showers is something many seniors want to do,” John said. “The shower area can be designed to be wheelchair-accessible. Grab bars add stability and additional lights provide improved sight in dark areas.
“We can install fold-down seats, handheld shower heads and redesign sinks, counter, toilets and toilet paper holders to be more easily accessible,” he said. “Slips and falls in the bathroom are major concerns. It can be very hazardous, so offering these safety and accessibility features gives senior homeowners some extra comfort, safety and peace of mind.”
In addition to interior improvements, the exterior of a home can also be remodeled for safe and enjoyable senior living.
“A low-maintenance exterior is advantageous, as well as no-step entryways,” John said.
JT Construction, which has specialized in full-service remodeling projects for the past 15 years, is currently in the process of installing several Aging in Place projects at the Cascade home of Judy Shovan.
“Judy’s home is one of the first ones we’ve done a lot of work on, with this concept in mind,” John said. “It has grown over time into a major project.
“We’ve been doing pieces for her over time,” he said. “That is the way a lot of people approach projects like this. They have a budget and a list of priorities to work with, and they do their upgrades with those in mind.”
One of the major projects at Shovan’s home was the installation of an elevator, which travels between all four floors of the house.
“Wheelchair lifts and ramps are pretty popular for seniors, who want to get around in their homes faster and easier,” Barb said. “Judy’s home actually has an elevator, like you would see in a commercial building.
“It is pretty cool to see,” she said. “That was a unique project and the first time we have been involved in installing an elevator in a home.”
Other improvements at Shovan’s home include the installation of level door handles, maintenance-free fiber cement exterior siding, 36-inch wide doors, and a walk-in tile shower.
“All of the remodeling work has nearly doubled the original size of the house,” Shovan said. “I recently had a stroke, so my equilibrium is off a bit. The new features have been great for me, as well as several older members of my family.”
“Judy is a person that is very set on continuing to live in her own home,” Barb said. “The house will be beautiful, when it is all done,”
Shovan, who is eager to start work on a new open floor plan for her kitchen a living room area, is ecstatic about the work JT Construction has done on her home.
“John and his crew have been just outstanding to work with,” she said. “Even with all the work that has been done here, I never had to move out. They accommodated me very well.
“They are by far the best home-remodeling business I have ever work with. The house kind of has the feeling of a Frank Lloyd Wright design. I just love it.”
The Aging in Place program has grown to become multi-faceted to include in-home care, as well as medication and grocery delivery for those in need.
“This is really an exciting program that goes beyond remodeling work,” Barb said. “There is a local organization called Comfort Keepers, which provides in-home care services for seniors, and Reverse Mortgage, which gives seniors the opportunity to pay for some of their expenses through their home equity.
“This is a case where several different organizations are coming together to put a program into place that will help many people. This is a national program that will just get stronger as the years go by.”
John, who is the 2011 president-elect of the Sheboygan County Homebuilders Association, is excited about what the future might hold for the Aging in Place program.
“With the economy taking a turn, less people are looking at building new homes, and planning for the future has become as important as ever,” he said. “Programs like Aging in Place have given homebuilders another avenue to pursue for many years to come.”
For more information on the Aging in Place program or for additional remodeling needs, contact JT Construction at 876-3090 or jtconstructionllcATyahoo.com.