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Design Idea – Aging In Place

By March 1, 2021February 26th, 2024Newsletter

Welcome to the March 2021 issue of The Oak Leaf! For new readers, this is a monthly newsletter that is sent by e-mail to those that have expressed an interest in Gastineau Log Homes. We use this as a way of communicating technical, design and industry information. For more information, check out our web site at

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We often hear our customers say they want to design their home to “Age in Place” – this is their last home and they want to ensure they can be there as long as possible. “Universal Design”, or “Aging in Place”, are two terms used to describe a home built to accommodate potential mobility restrictions caused by either age or disability. This month, we will explore the most common building features to accomplish this goal. By incorporating these small changes, you truly can enjoy your Gastineau Log Home well into your golden years.

Trivia Question: According to the Guinnes Book of World Records, who was the oldest human in history? (See the answer below.)

If possible, designing a taller-than-average garage stall would be hugely beneficial if a wheelchair accessible vehicle is needed.

Floor Plan

These simple design changes can make a tremendous difference to the livability of the home for those with mobility issues:

1) Zero clearance front and/or back doors or a ramp into home. At least one exterior door should be accessed without stairs.
2) 36″ wide doors for all doors that you pass through. (Exterior & Interior doors) This is not necessary for closet doors.
3) If the home is built on a basement, 4ft wide stairs to accommodate a future stair lift. Same if you have a second floor set of stairs.
4) Four foot hallways if possible (and design for a minimum of hallways.). Open floor plans are the best.
5) Lever doorknobs (vs knobs). You don’t want to have to turn a door knob. Levers you can simply push up or down.
6) Front door side lite and/or low peephole to see who is at the door.
7) No carpet; low pile if necessary. Carpet is hard to push a wheelchair on and also can be a trip hazard.
8) Window sills no more than 30″ off ground to be able to reach the windows to open.
9) Place utilitiy access on main floor and at accessible height (lower for electrical panel; higher for water value shut off)

Wide openings don’t have to be obvious or boring! Get creative and make them fun.


Tell your kitchen cabinet designer that you want to include Universal Design or Aging in Place concepts in your design. They should be excited to help you make the cabinets conform to those principals and may have some great ideas! The result is a kitchen that is functional while maintaining beauty in design. Some of those ideas may include:

1) Variable height countertops to allow for comfortable positions for different activities
2) Distance between countertops/island at least 40″ to provide plenty of maneuvering space
3) C-shaped pulls for ease of use
4) A drawer microwave that sits lower to the ground than a traditional microwave
5) Lower cabinets to be drawers vs a cabinet w/ doors (I am a firm believer in cabinet drawers vs doors for any kitchen! They make everything so much more accessible!)
6) Lever sink faucets or even motion sensor faucets for the kitchen sink

Open space below a sink allow for wheelchair access later

Master Bedroom and Bathroom

We all spend most of our time in the living room and kitchen. However, the third space that is critically important is the master bedroom and bathroom. The bathroom is the area that is the most expensive to retrofit later in life but is also the space where the majority of accidents and falls happen. Proper planning during design and construction will prevent having to deal with both of these issues later.

1) Your bed should have 36″ clearance around both sides to allow for space for helpers and access to wheelchairs.
2) Reinforced ceiling structure for lift system pulleys. Adding a few rafters or trusses or cross bracing is very inexpensive during construction but very costly after the home is built.
3) Closet doors should be bifold or slide/pocket doors.
4) Zero-threshold shower or walk-in shower with seating
5) Install handheld or adjustable shower wands vs fixed wall shower heads
6) Use comfort height toilets for ease in getting up and down
7) The path to the toilet should be 36″ wide with space to maneuver around
8) Vanity/sink 34″ off ground
9) Lever handled faucets that are easy to push on/off (like the kitchen sink)
10) Reinforcements in frame walls for grab bars that can be installed later.

Barn doors have become a popular design option in recent years, but they are also very practical when designing your Aging In Place home.


Many of the adaptations made in homes to accommodate older inhabitants require electricity to function. If you think about what you may need and plan accordingly, you can reduce the cost of installation of those devices later. This may include:

1) Having plugs in locations for future lifts. Spaces such as next to toilets, at top of stairs, and future elevators.
2) Ambient lighting thoughout for nightlights
3) Motion sensing lights in utility, pantry, closets, etc. to eliminate switches
5) Indirect lighting throughout with LED bulbs,
4) The use of three-way switches throughout home. E.g: Overhead switch at bedroom door and bedside.
6) A Doorbell that can be heard throughout house

The Future:

Over the next 20 years, the number of people in their 80’s and 90’s living alone is expected to dramatically increase. Households age 65 and over are increasing faster than any other age group, both in number and as a total percentage of all households. Planned properly, you can “Age in Place” in a beautiful Gastineau Log Home and it can truly be your “Last Home.”

Open Houses:

The GLH National Model Home Center on I-70 in central MO is open 7 days a week! Come walk through 3 of our homes Monday – Friday 8a-5p, Saturday 9a-5p, and Sunday 12a-5p. Appointments encouraged. Click here for more, including directions.

2021 Construction Seminar Schedule:

Our next construction seminar is scheduled for March 6th, 2021. Please call 1.800.654.9253 or email for more information and to register. Reserve your seat now as class size is limited!

Click here for information on our one day construction seminars.

Answer to the Trivia Question:

Jeanne Louise Calment was the oldest human. She lived for 122 years and 164 days. She was born in France on Feb 21, 1875 and died in Arles, France on August 4, 1997.

Quote of the Month:

Whatever you do, always give 100%. Unless you are donating blood.”
— Bill Murray