Builder Sally Erickson Bornschein, certified Aging in Place designer at Traverse City’s Residential Development, Port of Old Mission, has been one of Northern Michigan’s most unflagging advocates of Aging in Place design standards for the home. We asked her to share some thoughts about this living strategy.

What was it about Aging in Place Design that caught your interest so early in the trend?

Well, I’ve really served the elder market since college, when early in my career I worked in the motor coach industry, which serves primarily seniors. Also, my family has been in the building industry for a long time, so the two came together naturally.

What exactly is Aging in Place design?

Studies show that most people live longer and are happier if they are able to stay in their homes. Aging in Place for me means building a house where you can stay as you grow older. It means having a house that can evolve with you, that allows you to put in tools that help you age gracefully. So, for example, maybe you don’t need grab bars now, but we put in supports behind the drywall, so that putting a bar in later is easy and inexpensive. Or we put a 110 plug at the base of the stairway so it will be easy to put in a stair chair if that need arises.

What are some of the biggest roadblocks people encounter when dealing with Aging in Place issues?

The hardest part about aging in place planning is getting through people’s egos. Nobody thinks that they will ever get old or that their parents will get old. So people wait until there’s a crisis—we are now more like firemen, rushing in to modify a house before somebody comes home from the hospital. So if you are dealing with your parents, you need to recognize clues that your parents need you to be involved and help them move ahead with Aging in Place issues. Also, don’t let your own ego get in the way. I hear people say, “gosh, Dad has always been so strong, I don’t know why he needs this.” And if you are dealing with your own home, plan ahead.

What kind of future do you see for Aging in Place design?

There are so many baby boomers soon to be seniors that there are not enough facilities for our aging population. As a society, we have to work as a team to help people age in their own homes because facilities simply don’t exist.

Read Sally’s 13 Tips for Modifying Your Home So You Can Age in Place