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AARP, August 2009
Hundreds of homeowners entered the Recession Remodel Room Makeover in hopes of getting a bathroom or kitchen facelift that would help them or their parents live more safely and comfortably. It was a tough selection, since there were several great entries.
The judges finally picked a farmhouse kitchen outside Charlotte, N.C., and a family bathroom in Seattle. The winners represent today's typical caregiver in the United States—both are boomer women concerned with the physical challenges soon to prevent their parents from easily and comfortably living in their homes.
Mary Waggoner, a single woman living in Snohomish, Wash., gets hardly a break from her full-time job with the Everett School District, as she cares for her parents, Clarence and Louise, when they visit her at her home on most weekends. In fact, she was instrumental in helping her parents move from Montana to Washington state in 2006.
Living on their remote Montana ranch had become too difficult and costly for her age-80+ parents, who in September will celebrate their 64th wedding anniversary.
More health challenges are setting in for Clarence and Louise, who both now have major difficulties using the features in the most accessible bathroom in Mary's home.
Her makeshift "fixes" to address current concerns—such as safely stepping over the tub ledge and getting her Mom out of her wheelchair through the narrow doorway—could soon prevent her parents from visiting. While Mary has her parents' needs at heart, she worries about the looming danger every time her parents visit. She knows that a more user-friendly bathroom would ultimately benefit her, too, but she can’t financially redo it by herself.
Jamie Hammill, another boomer woman, lives with her husband in Richfield, N.C., about 50 miles outside of Charlotte. Her mother, Judy Hammill, is a young 60+, who lost her husband in 2006 after being married for more than 48 years. Dealing with a heavy travel schedule for her job and worrying about her mother coping after her father's death, Jamie suggested that her mom move back to the farm her family has owned since the late 1800s (and coincidently, the home Judy grew up in) to be closer to family and to the cultural and social benefits of being located near Pfeiffer University.
However, it's difficult and expensive to retrofit a farmhouse kitchen from that era on your own. With her mother's knee issues in mind and the general lack of storage and livability issues in the ancestral home, Jamie is seeking cost-effective, remodel ideas that will benefit her mom, her husband, and herself.
Editor's note: Jamie's kitchen and Mary's bathroom are under construction. Check back in the winter to see the dramatic before and after photos. In the meantime, visit our Universal Design expert's, Cynthia Leibrock, online profile to find out what low- to no-cost enhancements you can make to your kitchen.
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