With the cost of moving simply too high, more Hawaii residents are choosing to modify their homes to age in place, adding universal design features such as wider hallways, seamless transitions between spaces and walk-in showers with grab bars. “With the lack of housing inventory here in Hawaii, people want to utilize what they have,” says Ryan Graham of Graham Builders Inc. “The cost of moving is prohibitive and moving into a care home would be even more expensive.”

Widened doorways and a level floor plan are some of the universal design features of this home by Graham Builders. Photo courtesy of Graham Builders.

Today’s homeowners are getting a jump on the process, choosing to remodel their homes in their 40s and 50s instead of waiting. “One big change we’re seeing is that people are planning and getting things in place at a younger age,” says Marshall Hickox of Homeworks Construction Inc. “Ten or 15 years ago, people were waiting until after the fact – when they had to remodel due to health or lifestyle concerns. Now, it’s preemptive. Younger people are planning on staying in place longer.”   

Graham says his company is seeing the same thing. “They want to make sure they can be comfortable for the rest of their lives,” says Graham, who estimates 98 percent of his company’s projects now include at least one universal design feature. “In Hawaii, we see a lot of extended-family gatherings. So, homeowners want to make sure everyone – no matter what their age or physical condition — is comfortable in their home.”

Graham Builders added a walk-in shower with grab bars to this home. "If you have to focus on just one area of the house to begin updating, it should be the bathroom," says Ryan Graham of Graham Builders. "It's where a lot of falls can occur." Photo courtesy of Graham Builders.

A recent study puts the cost of assisted care on Oahu at $4,100 per month. “I recently went through this with a family member and that number was shocking,” says Nick Tang of Koolau Builders. “How can anyone afford that cost? That’s why aging-in-place features are so important, because they can help offset those costs. It’s something you have to think about.” 

Besides being expensive, moving can also be disruptive. “Let’s face it, a lot of seniors get comfortable with their homes, they don’t want to have to move,” says Graham. “So, it’s important to maintain their comfort level throughout their remaining years.”


DID YOU KNOW? 
The average cost of assisted living in Honolulu can be up to 70 percent more expensive than on the Neighbor Islands.
Source: payingforseniorcare.com


AGING-IN-PLACE IMPROVEMENTS
  • Elevators or One-Floor Design
  • No-Step Entries
  • Slip-Resistant Floors
  • Widened Doors
  • Lever-Style Doorknobs
  • Widened Hallways
  • Pocket Doors
  • Walk-In Showers
  • Remotely Controlled LED Lighting
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