Moving Up

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Residential elevators offer flexibility for seniors and their families

By utahvalley360.com

When Richard and Julie Kozlowski decided to move from their home above Timpview High School and build in the Estates at Burr Orchards in Provo, they had a list of “must haves” for their new place. “Elevator” was near the top of the list.

Richard had already had both knees replaced and was looking to save his body some wear and tear. Julie’s mother, Shirley Meyers, was planning to move in with the Kozlowskis, and an elevator would ease her mobility.

“We knew what we wanted to do with our home, and including an elevator was the best option for us,” Richard says. “We wanted our new home to have the room to host family and friends and to be a gathering place. It’s easier to add square footage up than out. Having an elevator made it easier to add it up.”

Residential elevators are becoming increasingly popular in Utah County for three reasons. Baby boomers are getting older, local elevator companies are putting a high priority on residential units, and local architects are designing openings for the units.

“These three things have combined into a powder keg for the industry locally,” says Matthew Hyde, co-owner of The Elevator Company in Salt Lake City.

The Elevator Company, which custom-built the Kozlowskis’ elevator, does much of its manufacturing locally in its North Salt Lake City plant.

Matthew says he works with clients in the Kozlowskis’ situation regularly.

“We have a lot of families that are planning on having mom or dad move in,” he says. “You don’t want to banish mom or dad from the main part of home, and you don’t want to sacrifice their privacy or yours.”

An elevator allows for a proper mix of privacy and camaraderie. A residential elevator provides easy access to all levels of the home, and it can be custom-built to fit almost any space requirements — including being wide enough for a wheelchair, if needed.

“We don’t need wheelchair access yet, but who knows what the future will bring,” Richard says. “Our doorway is wide enough to fit a wheelchair should we ever need it.”

Residential elevators start at $16,000, with the average price between $20,000 and $22,000. Adding one to a home is a significant investment, but usually the cost is directly reflected in future appraisals of the home.

Richard believes an elevator was a smart investment for his family, and a second “plus” was the ease of finding a place for one in their floor plan.

“In most plans, there is a half-bath on the main level,” Richard says. “That ends up being a great size for an elevator. Ours is 6-feet by 6-feet and was supposed to be a half-bath on our plan.”

With some minor adjustments (the Kozlowskis added a full-bathroom to the main floor and moved the scheduled main-floor laundry to the upstairs) the elevator was easily adaptable to their floor plan.

The Kozlowskis are on the younger end of elevator clients; Matthew says his most common customer is between 60 and 70 years old and is building a “last” home.

“They want to live in the home until they die — not just until their knees hurt,” he says. “Many of our customers will put in an elevator and hire an in-house nurse instead of selling their home and moving into assisted-living facilities.”

Residential elevators are different from regular commercial elevators, aesthetically and mechanically. Aesthetically they are able to blend into the décor of a home easier. Instead of using impersonal metals, wood paneling is often incorporated. The doors to the elevators often look like closet doors, and home elevators are designed with safety features necessary in a home environment.

Mechanically, residential elevators are built using a gear-drive instead of the hydraulic system common in commercial elevators. The gear-drive system requires much less maintenance — twice a year vs. every month.

The Kozlowskis were also surprised to enjoy an added benefit of having an elevator.

“We ordered a dishwasher and had it brought up in the elevator,” Julie says. “The delivery guys said we could order from them any time because the elevator made it easy to get up to the main

floor.”

Lifespan expanding

The average life expectancy has reached an all-time high of 77 years. With more people living into their 80s and 90s, many seniors are caring for aging parents in their own retirement years.

One in four households in the United States provides care to an aged relative or friend. A generation once named the baby boomers are becoming the “sandwich generation,” because they are taking care of their aging parents as well as raising children of their own.

Caring for aging parents is a process, not an event. Patterns of caregiving change as physical health, changing abilities and financial pressures exert their influence.

There must be a plan. A caregiving plan might be gradual at first, starting with helping parents while they still live in their own home – running errands, checking for and eliminating safety hazards, and doing home maintenance.

As parents’ abilities change, so will the level of care. These things should be discussed with the parent before crucial decisions need to be made so everyone will know what plan of action to pursue.

 

Add to your ‘to-do’ list

Foster Grandparent Program

Foster grandparents serve as mentors, tutors and caregivers for at-risk children and youth with special needs through a variety of community organizations, including schools, hospitals, drug treatment facilities, correctional institutions, Head Start and day-care centers. For more information, call (801) 370-8384.

 

Senior Companion Program

Senior companions are healthy older adults who help other adults live independently. Senior companions provide support to family caregivers. They assist with grocery shopping and other daily tasks necessary for maintaining independence. Senior companions serve one-on-one with the frail elderly and other homebound persons who have difficulty completing everyday tasks. For more information, call (801) 373-8229 or (801) 373-8200.

Top concerns about retiring

33% health problems

29% not enough money

13% boredom

9% nothing

6% growing old

6% other

4% dying

Source: USA Today

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