Roxanne Sisneros of Ruhl & Ruhl Realtors on Boomers Redesigning their Homes – LIVING WELL Magazine

Boomers Redesigning Their Homes 

By Roxanne Sisneros, SRES, Ruhl & Ruhl Realtors, Linn County LIVING WELL Magazine

According to a survey released by the American Institute of Architects, retirees are pushing a trend in design that calls for greater accessibility in their homes. They go on to say that many of the 77 million Baby Boomers, the largest age group in U.S. history, likely will stay in their long-term residences. “We see many more households start to plan, at an early age, what they need to have at an older age,” says Kermit Baker, the AIA’s chief economist.

The problems with staying put after retirement is that most U.S. housing fails to meet the needs of aging homeowners. Steep stairs and slippery tubs are safety issues. Narrow hallways and doorways, bed, bath and kitchen facilities are not conducive to walkers and wheelchairs, slick floors and carpeting can cause falls, front steps and entry ways are not accessible. Design, lighting, and maintenance issues are likely to present challenges. The more people choosing to stay in their own homes, the greater the need will be for remodeling.


Another major trend seen by the survey may be an ending in Americans wanting bigger homes.

In the past 50 years, the square footage of newly built homes has more than doubled. Explains Kermit Baker, “For the first time in our survey, respondents said they were decreasing home sizes rather than increasing them.”

Higher energy costs may be playing a role. “Concerns over affordability are resulting in a decrease in extra interior spaces that add to heating and cooling expenses,” says Baker.

Retirees seem to be enjoying the outdoors and upgrading their homes to include gazebos, patios, etc. Designers are incorporating entire entertainment suites into outside spaces. Patios today come equipped with complete kitchens with gas ranges, grills and ovens, dining room sets and living rooms with fireplaces that are comfortable and cozy, all under cover of a roof.

Understanding the need for independence by the individual should be the most important element in making changes in the home. Once the retiree understands that these changes need to be addressed in order for them to continue living in place, then they will become more open to change. The retiree will be able to stay at home and enjoy it, while at the same time feel safe and make their daily routines easier.

Making changes to a home can extend a boomer’s independence by years. The cost of “redesigning” a home is minimal compared to the costs associated with retirement housing.

According to, the average cost of assisted living is approximately $70,000 per year. The one-time cost of remodeling an existing home could be upwards of $50,000, but could be more or less, depending on the extent of the remodeling work.

The numbers aren’t even close. Thinking far enough ahead makes good financial sense.

I believe that the right kind of planning, recommendations and referrals can make aging in place a state to be savored instead of a fate to be feared.

Roxanne Sisneros, SRES, is a lifestyle transition specialist and broker associate with Ruhl & Ruhl Realtors, 1100 Fifth St., Suite 201, Coralville, IA. Reach her at 319-573-6637,, or via www.RuhlHomes/RoxanneSisneros.