News from the Block, Innovate Building Solutions Blog
News from the Block, Innovate Building Solutions Blog
Bathroom, Kitchen, Basement Design & Remodeling Ideas for the Nicest Home or Business on the Block
Bathroom, Kitchen, Basement Design & Remodeling Ideas for the Nicest Home or Business on the Block

Modify or Move? Answering the aging in place question.

Modify or Move Answering the aging in place question. | Innovate Building Solutions | Age in place | handicap accessible shower | bathroom remodeling ideas | Roll in shower design ideas

If you – or your parents – are like most people, aging is NOT a fun process (even though the 55+ community brochures make it look like a blast).

And when you’re not as limber as you used to be (or medically ‘clicking on all cylinders’ like the old days), and navigating your home is more difficult, you (or your adults ‘kids’) may be asking this question…

Should I modify my home so I can age in place, or should I move?

And while I wish I could provide you with a simple answer to this question, like everything in life, it depends.

  • It depends on your finances.
  • It depends on your mental and physical health condition.
  • It depends on your home itself.
  • It depends on what changes (repairs, or remodeling) are needed to make your home safe AND prevent falls. And, as you’re learn below, falls happen to 3,000,000 Americans 65 and older and cause a whopping 800,000 hospitalizations per year. Those ARE NOT encouraging statistics.

And if you’re debating the pros and cons around this ‘move or modify’ question for the first time I’ll bet you a ‘dollar to donuts’ (yes, that’s the weirdest saying ever, isn’t it?) have more questions than answers. Given this challenge, the goal of this article is simple, it’s to guide you towards the best decision for your family. So, what will you learn in this article?

In Part 1 I’ve invited Eve Hill (a licensed realtor and Certified Aging in Place Specialist) to address the following points:

  • Why modifying (through small repairs or remodeling) can be a smart financial decision vs. moving Mom or Dad into a community facility (like independent, assisted living, or memory care).
  • Where should you start to modify a home? Are there basic safety modifications you can make which aren’t too expensive?
  • Where can you find help (resources) to help pay for the project AND get the work done properly?

Then in Part 2, I’ll go into greater detail about small bathroom modifications and larger bathroom remodeling projects to improve safety, simplicity, and dare I say style for a senior friendly bathroom. And yes, just because you have a few (or more than a few) gray hairs doesn’t mean your home HAS TO look like a hospital room to be safe!

So, let’s dive into Part 1 and input from Eve.

Part 1 – Modify or Move? Input from Eve Hill, a professional realtor who focuses on clients who want to age in place.

Head Shot Eve Hill | Realtor | Bathroom remodeling | Home Improvement | New Home For Age in Place

Why is it Important to Remodel Your Home for Aging in Place?

Most older adults want to age in their homes. But are our homes ready to age with us? NO, they are not.

Less than 4% of U.S. homes have the “three foundational features” of accessible housing: single-floor living, no-step entries, and wide hallways and doorways.

90% of older adults want to Age in Place (AARP)
90% of homes aren’t ready (US CENSUS)
Sooner or later we’ll have to face the decision: Modify or Move?

Americans are living longer, but most U.S. homes were not built with the “longevity revolution” in mind. They have stairs, narrow doorways, inadequate lighting, small bathrooms, no grab bars, and other age-biased design features that contribute to increased risk for falls in older adults. This is putting excessive demands on caregivers and our healthcare system. 3 million Americans ages 65 and older are treated for falls each year, resulting in 800,000 hospitalizations at an average cost of $33,000 per stay. (Centers for Disease Control)

“Older adults and people with mobility issues are unnecessarily disabled by standard home design”
– Longevity Strategist Esther Greenhouse

IBS SLIDES WORKING COPY - 7 | Innovate Building Solutions | Home Remodeling | Age in Place Bathroom

Americans are living longer, but most U.S. homes were not built with the “longevity revolution” in mind. The median age of U.S. homes is 43 years old, the oldest on record.


Here’s how to prolong your independence in the home you love:
Leverage design to solve the problem. Call it by any name you like: Universal Design, Visitable design, enabled design, Accessible Design. It’s about reducing and even eliminating the need to adjust yourself for your environment.

IBS SLIDES WORKING COPY - 30 | Innovate Building Solutions | Curbless Showers | Roll in shower | universal shower design ideas

We can prevent falls, save lives, billions in medical costs and keep people in the homes they love by incorporating practical & stylish improvements so our homes can adapt to us as our needs change. So, our homes can be welcoming not only to our future selves, but to everyone, regardless of age or ability. It’s good design that’s good for everybody.

IBS SLIDES WORKING COPY - 31 | Innovate Building Solutions | Bathroom remodeling | Universal Home Design Features | Home Remodeling ideas

Where can you start to create a safe, age in place friendly home?

OPTIONS: You have more options than you think you do.
And the good news is:
– Starting is not expensive.
– Planning gives you control, whether this is for your own home, or a parent or loved one.
– Universal Design is already all around us and we love it.
Consider the curbless shower. We see them in spas, and they feel luxurious – the same can be true in our homes – and they have been shown to increase resale value.

MORE Universal Design Examples:

Lever handles, touch faucets, wider doorways, gently sloping paths to the front door. Improved lighting, smart home technology, and yes – grab bars, grab bars, grab bars.

IBS SLIDES WORKING COPY - 32 | innovate building solutions | universal exterior design for homes | Ramped entryway | Home design ideas

Universal Design includes light, color, contrast, and texture. It takes the homeowners’ senses into account. Vision, cognition, sense of balance, integrating things that will help prevent falls now and into in the future. It’s design that considers height differences, flexible spaces, and technology that can adapt.

Great – lots of options – but that’s also a lot to do. Are there good places to start?

DIY: You can start by doing simple, small modifications around the home yourself and have a significant impact on fall prevention and safety.

  • Get rid of extra rugs, throw rugs – they are tripping hazards. At least secure the corners or put non-slip backing on them.
  • Excess Furniture: too much furniture can mean the walking paths throughout the home are compromised or too narrow.
  • Remove Artwork that juts out from the wall. For those with balance or vision issues this can be a problem.
  • Kitchen – rearrange your most frequently used items so they are within reach. (between 15-48 inches off the floor)

Clearing clutter and removing throw rugs will prevent a lot of falls, but we need to do more. Let’s take a more detailed look at the Bathroom and the Kitchen.


Please humor my determined appreciation of the Grab Bar, the most underappreciated lifesaver in your home.

Fall prevention is beautiful: Sleek and stylish grab bar designs are now available in all the colors of the rainbow, plus coated with anti-microbial technology that’s warm to the touch. They come in fancy finishes, like a wood grain look, or custom designed with your favorite sports team’s logo. There are also grab bars that curve around corners, and fold up and down out of the wall.

So let’s not just grab the grab bar, let’s embrace it with a big “Bar Hug.”
As Certified Aging in Place Master Educator Fritzi Gros-Daillon puts it, “grab bars are the new seat belts.” You want it before you fall…or get into an ‘accident.’

Fall Prevention is Versatile

Grab bars are great at doorways, at the bedside or in the kitchen. Some people find them helpful at the top of the stairs or coming in from the garage.

Photo 5 EH article REV | Grab Bars for Bathroom Remodel | Bathroom Design ideas | Home Remodeling

Although professional installation is recommended, it’s not expensive. Visit the “Home Modifications” section on our Resources page ( for tips to find small job contractors in your area.

IBS SLIDES WORKING COPY - 33 | Innovate Building Solutions | Bathroom Remodel | home Design ideas | Roll in shower design | Cleveland Bathroom Remodel

Other things to consider for your bathroom:

  • raised toilet seat
  • low or no threshold shower
  • shower seat
  • two sources of lighting
  • wall hung sink with space to roll under
  • 60” turning radius for turning and transferring onto and off the toilet.
  • Sliding Door / Pocket Door / Barn Door:
    DOOR NOTES: When the door opens IN to the bathroom, a person could become trapped inside. (If they have fallen or collapsed, they could be lying on the floor against the door.) Opening the door outward would be an easy solution, but it could present other space utilization issues outside of the bathroom. The best answer is a sliding door that retracts and stores in the wall (pocket door) or a barn door that stores out of the way along the wall surface.
  1. KITCHEN “KUESTIONS”The next room to take a look at is your kitchen.
  • Is there room to maneuver?
  • Does the stove have front controls?
  • Can you reach everything in your cabinets without climbing on step stool or bending all the way down? (reach range is approximately 15” to 48” off the floor – and that goes for electrical outlets and light switches, too)
  • Is your microwave up high (bad) or low (good)?
  • Do you have multiple height counter tops for people in wheelchairs?
  • Do you have task lighting to shine on the countertops where you use knives to chop food?
  • Do you have non-slip flooring?

IBS SLIDES WORKING COPY - 34 | Universal Kitchen Design Home Remodel Ideas | Kitchen Island ideas for Wheel Chair

Where can you find help (resources) to help pay for the project AND get the work done properly?


Will Medicare Cover it? Probably Not
SOME of this equipment is considered “medical,’ but home modifications don’t generally meet Medicare’s financing criteria. Speak with your Doctor or physical therapist about your situation.

Are there Other Resources to Finance Repairs? Yes
Visit for links to:

  • National Sites & local resources to vetted professionals in your area
  • Government programs offering financial assistance for home modifications
  • Volunteer Networks
  • Tax incentive programs

Other Options: Paying for Large projects

  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers Adaptive Housing Grants
  • Life Insurance can be converted into a Life Settlement
  • Home Equity Conversion Mortgage – the modern “Reverse Mortgage” is backed by the US Government.

How Much will all this Cost?

Aging in Place doesn’t come cheap, but when you weigh it against the cost of moving to an Assisted Living community, it may make financial sense. On average, home modification remodeling projects run between $3,000-$15,000, while the cost of an average Assisted Living community is almost $5,000 per month (Genworth Cost of Care).  Considering these numbers, even a complete bathroom remodel or an in-home elevator will pay for itself quickly.

IBS SLIDES WORKING COPY - 29 | Innovate Building Solutions | Bathroom remodeling ideas | Home design | Age in place home statistics

Critical Conclusions:

  • clear clutter
  • install grab bars
  • update lighting
  • add security & smart home technology

Your Home Needs 3 key features:

  • Zero step entry into the home.
  • First floor bedroom & full bathroom
  • At least one bathroom accessibility feature, such as a grab bar, raised toilet seat or shower seat.

Look at Aging in Place as a “lifestyle goal.” It takes planning. Home modifications cannot be done well in a crisis. You don’t want to wait until after a fall, when your dad is due home from rehab & he doesn’t have a bathroom on the first floor.

All of us, in our own way, can help put the pieces of the Aging in Place puzzle together for older adults and their families.

There are vetted senior sector professionals across the country dedicated to connecting older adults to the products and professionals who can enable them to thrive in their home environment. Visit our resources page for quick links to organizations like the National Association of Home Builders and the National Aging in Place Council, who each have a directory of professionals with special training in Aging in Place, from contractors to interior designers to Occupational Therapists, Estate Attorneys, Mortgage Specialists and Realtors, like me.

If you’re looking for contractors who specialize in aging in place the VGM Live at Home members focus on accessible remodeling.

You and your parents, if you plan, will have choices and control. When everyone has a chance to be involved in the decision making, you may even get excited about all the customizable options, starting with the color of the grab bars.

Photo 9 EH article REV | Innovate Building Solutions | Ponte Gulio | Bathroom Remodeling grab bars | universal shower design ideas for age in place parents

So, now that we’ve talked about the overall ‘move or modify’ question, let’s look in depth at product and design options for small bathroom modifications and larger bathroom remodels for aging in place since the #1 place falls occur are in bathrooms.

Part 2 – Small bathroom modifications or large bath remodeling projects to keep your bathroom safe, simple, and stylish for aging in place.

No discussion of age in place modifications happens without focusing on the bathroom. Once you get into the home (hopefully with a safe entry) the area of greatest risk is the bathroom. It can be damp, dark, and dangerous. It’s for this reason the bathroom is where many people start with age in place home modifications.

However, depending on someone’s needs (and budget) the best selections in age in place bathroom products and projects vary greatly.

Below – I’ll look first at smaller (and lower cost) bathroom modifications, and next I’ll discuss larger bathroom remodeling projects for aging in place.

Smaller – and lower cost – bathroom modifications for aging in place.

In no particular order, I’m going to list the lower cost (or no cost) bathroom modifications to consider if your budget is smaller.

  • Grab bars (and hopefully not ugly ones!) – Grab bars are a low-cost way to keep a shower and bathroom safe.
    contemporary bathroom remodeling cover page

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    Tips, tutorials, and how-tos for the hottest design trends

    Put one inside the tub or shower and position one on a wall as you’re getting out. And if you HATE, HATE, HATE the designs of institutional-looking grab bars, it’s not hard today to find decorative grab bars which look like stylish towel holders.

Grab bars decorative wood grab bar | Innovate Building Solutions | Grab Bars | Shower Remodeling ideas | Bathroom Design trends

  • Grab shelves – Grab shelves can be a ‘two-for-one’ BOGO special. You’ll not only get the grab bar function, but it also has storage for soap and shampoo bottles.

Grab shelf made of stainless steel | Innovate Building Solutions | Grab Bar | Shower Shelf Ideas | Bathroom Remodeling Accessories

  • Get rid of slippery rugs – While rugs add style to a bathroom, if they’re slippery they’re an accident waiting to happen.
  • Change to lever handles on your bathroom door or faucets – It’s hard to turn knobs if someone’s dexterity has been compromised. It’s for this reason it can make sense to change to handles from knobs.

Lever faucet handles | Innovate building solutions | Bathroom faucet | bathroom design ideas | matte black shower design

  • Add a hand-held shower – The handheld shower can make it simple to shower (and clean in hard to reach places) whether you’re showering while standing or in a seated position. And besides, it can make cleaning the dog (or shower) way easier.

Bathing a dog Golden Retriever | Hand Held Shower Head | Shower head | Bathroom Remodeling ideas | Bathroom Design Ideas

  • Bring in a shower seat – You eliminate the risk of falling or losing your balance if you can shower in a seated position. A shower seat is a low cost safety accessory.

shower seat by Kohler | Innovate building solutions | bathroom remodel | Shower Design ideas | Cleveland Bathroom Remodel

  • Add a transfer bench to your tub – If you don’t have the funds to do a tub to shower conversion – but you need a safer way to get into your combined tub/shower – a transfer bench can be your answer.

Transfer bench seat | Innovate building solutions | Bathroom remodeling | Shower design ideas | Bathroom accessories | spa like bathroom ideas

  • Change the vanity lights to a brighter LED fixture – There’s nothing quite as scary as your elderly parent on a ladder changing a light bulb. It’s for this reason changing to an LED lighting fixture which is brighter can be smart. Besides, a 75 year old needs twice as much light to see what they used to as when they were younger. So, kicking up the lighting is a smart thing to do.
LED light credit | Innovate building solutions | bathroom vanity mirror | Bathroom shower design
Image Source:

 Larger bathroom remodeling projects for aging in place.

While doing a more extensive bathroom remodeling project is not a ‘cheap date,’ (even if your family member is a contractor) the cost of remodeling pales in comparison to the average cost of an assisted living facility which is almost $5,000 PER MONTH! Ouch! At that rate, your inheritance will be spent down in no-time (ha! ha!).

So, if your bathroom (or your parent’s bathroom) has become harder to use and/or downright dangerous, you may be wondering what age in place bathroom projects you should consider? Here’s a list.

  • A bathtub to shower conversion – Climbing into a 12” to 20” high tub is NOT wise if you’re not steady on your feet.
    Ultimate Tub to Shower Conversion Guide

    Get Our Tub to Shower Conversion Guide!

    Clear Advice on how to transform your bathroom with a new shower system!

    When you replace the tub with a low profile shower, it’s far safer. And besides, few people use the tub function anyway. And if you’re wondering about the cost of a tub to shower conversion, read The Ultimate Guide to the Cost of an Installed Tub to Shower Conversion.

A bathtub to shower conversion installed cost | Innovate Building Solutions | Bathroom Remodeling | Shower Conversion | Bathroom Remodeling ideas

  • A bathtub to walk in tub conversion – Taller walk in tubs with doors, can provide a relaxing place to sit while getting cleaned. And although they are more expensive than tub to shower conversions, if you really enjoy your tub, they’re a way to keep the tub AND STILL be safe.
bathtub to walk in tub conversion credit | Innovate Building Solutions | Bathroom Remodeling ideas | Walk in Tub | Bathroom conversion
Image Source:
  • Add a one level shower – A one level shower has the bathroom floor at the same level as the shower floor.
    Shower Base Basics cover page

    Get Our Ultimate Shower Base Guide!

    Step Up Your Bathroom by Stepping Down Your Shower Pan!

    They have a clean, contemporary design – but do require a higher skill set to install. So, check with your contractor BEFORE buying the supplies to do a barrier free shower.

One level shower wet room with tile | Innovate Building Solutions | Bathroom One level wet room | Shower Remodeling ideas | Bathroom universal Design Ideas

  • A ramped roll in shower – A roll in shower pan is a safe way to create a shower for someone in a wheelchair. And while rolling in helps a loved one use a shower independently longer, the ramped shower pan design can be a drawback when it comes time to sell the home (unless you use a removable ramped shower component which isn’t permanently attached to the pan).
Ramped roll in shower with black linear drain | Innovate Building Solutions | Ramped Shower pan | Shower Design ideas for handicap accessible
Image Source: JTEK Solutions Group LLC
  • Use low maintenance – yet stylish – shower wall surrounds – Let’s face it, cleaning tiles is a Pain in the Rear (and besides it can cause an older adult to end up on their rear scrubbing tile joints).

    Get Free Samples!

    Click here to request free samples of our Laminated Waterproof Shower Wall Panels.

    It’s for this reason, you’ll want to explore stylish – yet simple to maintain – laminate shower wall surrounds. They come in patterns which are so realistic, most people swear they’re tile (although don’t let your mom hear you swear)!

Low maintenance shower wall surround laminate wall panels | Innovate Building solutions | Bathroom remodeling ideas | Shower wall panel design

  • Use a wall-hung vanity that you can roll under – If you use a wheelchair and struggle to get close to the sink (without straining your back), or the counter is too high, you’re not alone. In a larger bathroom remodel look for a wall hung vanity which can be used by anyone and put at whatever height is best (it’s usually recommended to put a wall hung vanity at 34” above the floor, vs. the standard 36” of a standard vanity).
Wall hung vanity you can roll under credit c | Innovate Building Solutions | bathroom remodeling | Roll in shower vanity | Cleveland Remodeling ideas
Image Source:
  • Choose a vanity with drawers and glides which come to you – Bending over to ‘try to find’ what’s in the back of your vanity is a pain…literally.
    Ultimate Bathroom Vanity Guide

    Get Our Bathroom Vanity Guide!

    Clear Advice for How to Choose the Vanity for Your Dream Bathroom!

    It’s for the reason look for a nicer vanity with drawers and tip out trays where the storage comes to you. It’ll save you from buying the same shampoo 3 times because you couldn’t see what was in the back.

bathroom vanity with drawers and glides Innovate | Innovate Building Solutions | Cleveland Ohio shower design | bathroom Remodeling ideas | home improvement

  • Change your window from a double hung to a casement style – Especially if your family member is in a wheelchair, opening a 2-sash double hung window may be impossible (and opening the window and getting fresh air not only helps to keep mold away, but it makes the space healthier). For this reason, if you have a double hung window, consider replacing it with a casement window with a crank at the bottom.

Casement window in a bathroom | Innovate Building Solutions | Cleveland Ohio Bathroom Remodeling Services | Windows Replacement services

  • Add a wall hung fold down bench seat (especially if your shower is smaller)- The wall hung shower seat is perfect. When you need it (to shower or shave your legs) fold it down. If you don’t, keep it folded up and you’ll still have a roomy shower.

Wall hung fold down seat in white | Innovate Building Solutions | Bathroom Remodeling Accessories | Bathroom Shower Design ideas | Fold down seats for universal shower design

  • Use a comfort height toilet (with a grab bar nearby)– With a (taller) comfort height toilet, it’ll not only be easier to get up and down onto the toilet, but it’ll also be easier to ‘take care of business’ (if you know what I mean).
Comfort height toilet | Innovate building solutions | bathroom remodeling ideas | universal bathroom design
Image Source:
  • Use a ‘smart toilet’ – Yes, even toilets can be ‘fancy-schmancy’ these days. You can now find toilets with bidet functions which can eliminate future health problems (caused by an unclean ‘bottom’) and make it simpler to get clean.
Smart toilet and bidet credit | Innovate Building Solutions | Smart Toilet Seat | Bathroom handicap accessible toilet design
Image Source:
  • Choose better flooring which is simpler to maintain – If you’re tired of cleaning bathroom tile grout joints (or worse yet, had a leakage problem caused by porous tile joints in your bathroom), you’ll want flooring which is simple, waterproof, yet stylish. Some low maintenance, yet not-slippery, options include LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tile) and engineered wood.

Better flooring luxury vinyl plank for age in place | Innovate Building Solutions | Vinyl Flooring for bathroom design | Shower design ideas for bathroom remodeling | Cleveland Remodeling designs

If you’re looking for more help with age in place modifications (and if you should move or modify your home) contact Eve or my team.

IMHO the worst thing you can do if you’re deciding whether to move or modify (or how/where to modify) is to go it alone.

This IS a specialized area. Not every realtor or remodeling contractor is knowledgeable about the needs of seniors (especially those with health conditions or mobility problems) and what housing will suit their physical (and emotional) needs best.

It’s for this reason if you’re looking for real estate advice call Eve at Customized Aging at 818-429-4522. Eve and her team provide Aging in Place consulting & advocate for Universal Design – to prevent falls and save medical costs. Or you can email Eve at

And if you’re looking for insights on age in place bathroom remodeling or age in place products, contact my team at Innovate Building Solutions at 877-668-5888 or click for a Free Design Consultation.

For a bath to shower conversion in Cleveland call 216-531-6085.

Thanks for reading!


And BTW – if you’re an installing contractor and would like to learn how to source unique products for age in place clients and become an age in place products dealer (and other bath/shower products) call Mike at 888-467-7488.


Mike Foti

President of Innovate Building Solutions a nationwide supplier and regional (Cleveland and Columbus) remodeling contractors. Some of our product lines include glass counters, floors, backsplashes, glass blocks and grout free shower and tub wall panels

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