We all want to be independent and in control of our lives for as long as we possibly can – preferably until the day we die. Aging-in-place is an appealing concept, to live out our years in the comfort of familiar surroundings rather than going to a nursing home or assisted care facility. To successfully age in place, it is never too early to carefully consider modifications to make your home more suitable and formulate a plan for home maintenance as well as obtaining additional assistance that may be required with routine daily activities as one’s health declines.

With a little foresight, homeowners may initiate the necessary changes before they become urgent. By taking early action, older adults can enjoy independent living without stressful, unexpected transitions. Home modifications may also increase the value of a home as, increasingly, homebuyers seek homes that are readily accessible, especially within an age-restricted community like SaddleBrooke.

Remodeling with Universal Design in Mind

While nearly 90 percent of older adults want to age in place and maintain independence, 85 percent of older adults have done nothing to prepare their homes for aging, according to AARP. A house that was perfectly suitable for a senior at age 55, may have too many trip hazards and obstacles for a 75-year-old. Research by the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that home modifications may prevent up to 50 percent of all home accidents among seniors, including devastating falls.

As homeowners take on remodeling projects, they should consider including universal design features to both meet the new market desires and to ensure their own future comfort, safety and convenience. Universal design is based on serving the entire population with an emphasis on accessibility for all, without sacrificing style. Modifications can be as simple as updating lighting with wireless motion sensor lights and touch lamps as well as elevating power outlets; replacing difficult to grasp door knobs and faucet handles with lever handles; clearing away clutter and removing trip hazard throw rugs; installing chair-height toilets, curb-less roll-in showers and walk-in tubs, grab-bars, ramps and slip-resistant flooring and wider doorways.

It’s no coincidence that the most visible result of universal design is a more open living space. In the SaddleBrooke area, professional remodelers are seeing a large percentage of their projects involved in making floor plans more open by removing interior walls, pillars and arches. SaddleBrooke’s first annual Remodeled Home Tour held in March of 2018 showcased the removal of non-loadbearing divider walls in Portofino, Topaz, Fiesta and Montana models, the removal of obstructing divider pony walls in a Fiesta and columns in an Estancia. (Visit www.makeyourmovematter.com/SaddleBrooke and click the SaddleBrooke tour of homes icon for more information on these transformations.) While these design modifications created a feeling of openness and enhanced views that owners desired, they also made for floorplans more suitable for those requiring walkers or wheelchairs. Another prevalent modification was the replacement of garden tubs and tub/shower combos with spacious, walk in showers with handheld sprayers and shower seats which provide safer operation and ease of entry and use for any future incapacitation.

It Takes a Village to Live Independently

SaddleBrooke residents already have a distinct advantage among their generation. Touting “the active adult lifestyle,” the community offers a positive prototype for aging, providing opportunities to not just age in place, but to truly thrive in place. Freed from the constraints of careers and obligations of their former lifestyles, residents may choose from a wide breadth of opportunities to develop latent talents, stretch their muscles and their minds, and pursue new hobbies and activities in the company of like-minded peers through a myriad of sporting, recreational, artistic, social and educational offerings.

What some younger SaddleBrooke residents may not realize is their good fortune to reside in a community served by an emerging national senior village model, one of only three currently existing in the state of Arizona. Based on a model begun in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood in 2001 that has expanded to more than 200 villages nationwide, Senior Village at SaddleBrooke formed in 2015 as a nonprofit 501( c )(3) with a mission to provide simple non-medical services to residents of SaddleBrooke to help them live independently and to serve as a resource when they decide to transition from the community. Sporting a motto of “Neighbors Helping Neighbors,” Senior Village is a non-profit grassroots movement that is membership-based, member-driven and self-governed.

Currently numbering 600 members, Senior Village at SaddleBrooke (SVSB) is served by approximately 175 volunteers who currently man programs including: Going My Way which provides transportation to medical appointments, grocery shopping and other errands; Helping Hands which lends assistance with simple household and yard tasks and Friendly Contact which provides social contact through phone calls and visits. Some volunteers and members feel that by helping others through service and/or membership fees now, they’ll be less hesitant or embarrassed to ask for help when they are in need - something that people of all ages struggle with.

Tickets for the 2019 Remodeled Home Tour go on sale Monday, March 4, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. in the SBCO office, Suite L in the Minit Market Plaza. Tickets cost $15 per person or $25 for two people and are limited to SaddleBrooke and SaddleBrooke Ranch residents only. Tickets are limited and sell quickly! Event proceeds benefit SaddleBrooke Community Outreach programs that greatly benefit area youth.