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Aging In Place: What’s In a Name? You Decide for a Chance to Win $50!

Universal design, also known as aging-in-place, is the Lord Voldemort of home remodeling: The modifications-that-must-not-be-named because many home owners think grab bars and curbless showers throw old age in their still-smooth faces.

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Curbless shower

What's your term to describe features like this curbless shower and wheelchair-friendly sink? Leave us a comment and you could win $50! Image: Porcher

Universal design, also known as aging-in-place, is the Lord Voldemort of home remodeling: The modifications-that-must-not-be-named because many home owners think grab bars and curbless showers throw old age in their still-smooth faces.

We think there might be a more engaging name for these smart, common-sense specifications and accommodations that allow people of all abilities to live in their homes easier and longer. In fact, we’re running a contest (read the rules) to find a new name for aging-in-place designs and features. You can find details at the end of this post.

“Aging in place” and “universal design” can be such a turnoff that contractors and designers resort to stealth and euphemism to add modifications that make life easier for people of all ages.

“We do Grand Design,” says Dan Bawden, president of Legal Eagle Contractors in Bellaire, Texas. “We’re dealing with denial, and aging in place has a stigma. We use many euphemisms to avoid that term. I just tell people these are useful features in your home. I don’t give them the option of not doing it.”

Some upgrades, like wood blocking to anchor grab bars, are easy to hide behind walls and on bid sheets.

Other accommodations, such as lever-type door handles instead of knobs and deep drawers in kitchens, just look like fancy upgrades.

For inspiration, take a look at designer/author Cynthia Leibrock’s beautiful and accessible bathroom.

Rename “aging-in-place” contest

Carolyn Sithong, an occupational therapist and owner of Home for Life Design in Orlando, Fla., says contractors like Bawden are driving the whatchamacallit design evolution. “It’s going to be driven by the profession rather than the market.”

We beg to disagree: We think this revolution will be driven by bright minds like yours that can re-brand these features to appeal to innovative home owners.

What would you call these accommodations? We’ll award $50 to the person who coins the best name as decided by HouseLogic.com readers. Here’s how the contest works:

  • Submit your best renaming effort in the comments section below. Deadline is Aug. 19, 2011.
  • We’ll compile your renaming ideas in another post on Aug. 22, 2011, when you can vote for your favorite in the comments section until Aug. 26, 2011.
  • The author of the name with the highest votes wins $50.

We can’t wait to see your ideas!

lisa-kaplan-gordon Lisa Kaplan Gordon

is an avid gardener, a member of the Fairfax County Master Gardeners Association, and a builder of luxury homes in McLean, Va. She’s been a Homes editor for Gannett News Service and has reviewed home improvement products for AOL. Follow Lisa on Google+.

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