Change the Climate … of Your House!

The topic of climate change in Houston has been known to cause some ‘heated’ discussions on both sides of the issue, but what does this really have to do with you if you are, say, nearing retirement and considering options for the next phase of your life? Like the “big picture” topic of climate change, thinking about getting older in your home is not something that makes you or anyone else happy. Just the opposite – it brings on fear of the future. Have you ever said, or even thought, the following?

“It’s easier to stay in this house the way it is and do nothing, than to even think about getting older and being able to function here in 20 years.”

As an architect, I look at problems differently. That’s why I’m able to help people find creative ways to adapt their home for the future.  But YOU are the one who needs to take the first step and that’s hard with a topic so connected to worry, fear and dread. It might even be more palatable to talk about that big picture topic of climate change than to think about how your life might change in 10 or 20 years! Don’t worry, there is actually something to learn from the global topic of climate change that can help us when it comes to aging in place …

  1. The word “climate” has a lot of surprising synonyms that we NEVER hear in connection with global climate change, for example: mood, spirit and ambiance. How do you want to FEEL in your home? What is the mood and spirit with which you want to live the rest of your life? What sort of ambiance do you want? Now, picture that in your mind!
  2. Just as with the big picture topic of climate change, if you plan ahead, you can be prepared. As architects we can offer other options and possibilities so that your home continues to provide a climate you enjoy being in.
  3. Let’s acknowledge that aging in place seems like a daunting problem, and you don’t want to think about it until you absolutely have to, but as with global climate change, time only makes it an even bigger problem.
  4. Nobody wants options forced upon them — “do this or there will be gloom and doom!” — and that is a big part of the resistance to climate change discussions, especially in the political arena. But as specialists in aging in place and invisible design, we can help you change the conversation. What if you intentionally change your climate, in a way that you are able to better enjoy and maintain your personal environment and your lifestyle?
  5. Rather than approaching the topic of climate change as “This is what we are losing…”, consider: What might be gained by a team of people working together over time? Thinking this way brings a positive spirit, whether you are talking about the planet or your neighborhood or your home. If you make intentional, incremental changes to adapt to different aspects of your lifestyle, you will avoid a cataclysmic event. And you won’t be losing anything. With proper planning, you will actually ADD value to your home, growing what is considered by most people to be their largest investment. Make these changes gradually, with intention and a positive mindset. Maintain your quality of life. The result is a win-win: you get functionality for when you need it combined withthe aesthetics and style that reflect how you live and what you love.
  6. As with global climate change, this topic is also largely about energy. One of the climate synonyms, “ambiance,” translates as an inner glow — it’s about yourlife and the glow of your It’s your own energy and attitude toward life, your excitement put into physical form, creating an environment that reflects the way you want to live and makes it possible to continue doing what you love with ease.
  7. Just like the big issue of climate change, it’s easier to continue with things as they are and NOT take the first step toward living differently. But there are SO MANY EASY THINGS you can do now to make your life better in the future. We can help. Start by asking yourself, what makes you glow? I’d love to hear your answer, because that answer is the first step on the roadmap to creating the best solutions for your future.

Finally, much like global climate change, you may feel quite comfortable in your home today, even knowing that a storm could be on the horizon. But like everyone else, you are getting older. Maybe you are even thinking about having an aging parent move in with you. Isn’t it time to consider changing the climate of your life? I understand – you don’t want to completely disrupt your household – logistically, emotionally or financially. You may love the atmosphere just the way it is. But your home’s function can affect your mood and dictate your daily activities. Its functionality (or lack of) will mandate, “This is how you feel.” Think about how you would feel if you were unable to enjoy your favorite pastime or forced to limit your social activities with family and friends.  Then, let’s have our own discussion about climate change … today.

Getting Realistic About Retirement

The following article by Lisa Bixler originally appeared in Prime Women magazine.

Apparently, the last week of October has been designated National Retirement Security Week. For many women, retirement and security are thought of in separate contexts… as nurturers, our instinct is often to direct our energy and resources in ways that make our loved ones feel secure, even if at our own expense.

Discussions about retirement planning tend to center around whether we will live near the kids, where we will travel, or how to find our new ‘purpose. Many of us were taught that it’s not polite to talk about money. Combine that with a history of unequal pay and the fact that most women adjust their career paths at some point around family life, it’s no surprise our IRAs and 401Ks fall short.

Although we can’t change our past, we can draw on the resilience that helped us through it to successfully define and achieve our own style of retirement. No two households are exactly alike, and the same can be said for people’s retirement planning. For this reason, when examining your own, start with a holistic approach based on your particular situation. To simplify, break retirement planning down into 3 general categories: Home, Health and Hobbies.

The Three H’s


Consider where you want to live over the next 5, 10, and 20+ years…

Mother and Daughter at HomeWill you stay in your current community, relocate to be closer to the grandkids or seasonally divide your time between two locations? Is there the possibility of an aging parent moving in with you? If you are thinking about moving to a new area, would there be a cost of living adjustment compared to where you are living now?

If your health changes at some point and you require extra care, would you consider moving in with your adult children or relocating to assisted living? If you’d prefer to stay in your current home and hire a caregiver, what steps might you have to take sooner rather than later so that your home can meet your future needs? If you’re deciding between locations, take a look at AARP’s livability index, which evaluates neighborhoods and communities based on the various categories that impact our lives most.


Retirement PlanAccording to HealthView Services, a leading producer of healthcare cost projection software, the average healthy 65-year-old couple will spend $281,847 in today’s dollars on lifetime Medicare and supplemental insurance premiums. When dental, hearing, vision and all other out-of-pocket expenses are calculated, the total estimate for healthcare spending in retirement jumps to $363,946, or $537,334 future value. For a 55-year old couple retiring in 10 years, that future value is $768,232.

Healthcare inflation, geographic location, age, and gender all factor into continuously rising costs. Based on the greater average life expectancy for women (89 vs. 87 for men), a 30-year-old female retiring at 65 can expect to pay $548,098 (in today’s dollars) in total lifetime retirement health care expenses – $118,632 more than a male of the same age.

HealthView’s data also projects that a 66-year-old couple will spend an average of 48% of their Social Security to cover total health care costs, a 55-year-old couple retiring in 10 years will spend 57%, and a 45-year-old couple, 72%. Considering the rumors about the uncertain future of the program, how much extra should we anticipate setting aside to make up the difference?

For assistance with these complex and ever-changing issues, go to WISER. The Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement is an organization that was formed to focus exclusively on the unique long-term financial challenges facing women.


Senior Friends on VacationHow do you see yourself spending your time? Will you explore what’s been on your bucket list for years or turn a long-time hobby into a new business? Maybe you’d like to stay connected to your current work but as a consultant so you have more time to travel.

If your pre-retirement lifestyle has always included a couple of major vacations each year, will your post-retirement income and budget continue to support that? Whichever direction you are leaning toward, consider how your activities will affect your overall long term financial planning.

Adjust Your Financial Strategy As Your Situation Changes

Whatever your picture of retirement looks like now, it will most likely change at some point in the future, for any number of reasons, maybe more than once. Whenever that happens, discuss the possibility of adjusting your strategy with your financial professional, even if you think your current plan could still work. There may be some additional benefits or tax savings that apply to your new situation.

Work with someone you trust who is knowledgeable on all aspects of retirement and doesn’t just focus on certain areas of your portfolio. Make sure your plan is truly the best fit for your situation. Remember that saying we’ve all heard many times regarding self-care and “put your own oxygen mask on first.” The reality of retirement is…the best way to be prepared is to prioritize your unique needs and to stay informed.

Do It Now: Incorporate Invisia when remodeling a bathroom

If you are remodeling a bathroom, no matter your age, consider incorporating the products of a Canadian company called Invisia. I’m not affiliated with them; I just like their products. One of the reasons for that is the Invisia collection doesn’t make your home look like a hospital. A related reason is that they make it palatable even for people in their 30s, 40s or 50s to follow one of my tenets when it comes to ensuring you can stay in your home for decades to come – start now.

When considering how to adapt a bathroom for future needs, one of the things people think about first is grab bars. Unfortunately, this thought is also one of the main reasons that people decide to put the project off!  Invisia features support accessories that look like regular soap dishes, shampoo shelves, toilet paper holders, or towel bars, but each one also supports up to 500 pounds of weight.  They are multi-functional and invisibly supportive. In keeping with current trends, there is a choice of chrome or satin finish.

As for seating, there is a shower seat or a bath bench, both made of moisture-resistant bamboo wood with rustproof aluminum trim, designed to make your bathroom feel like a spa – elegant and functional, rather than like a hospital room. Other companies have also started offering some “invisible design” products, but this company has my support because it was the first.  These engineering pioneers found a way to provide security without compromising style or function.

I’m starting a project next week and will be ordering from Invisia.

This new project is yet another case of someone who waited too long.  If you are in your 40s or 50s and are remodeling a bathroom, consider going ahead and incorporating these products. Even though you may not need them right now for support, take advantage of their function as traditional bathroom accessories, which you would be purchasing anyway. I see too many people waiting until it’s almost too late to fit out their homes; they’ve already had a fall and they or their adult children are considering a move to assisted living. You don’t want to do anything when it’s too late. You end up spending more money for fewer options. Whether you are remodeling a bathroom or any other area of your home, make sure it’s done so you’ll be able to enjoy it for as long as possible.

Invisible Design for Whole Life Living in Your House

Comfortable, Functional and Looks Good Too – Invisible Design for Whole Life Living in Your Home

It’s possible for you to take an active, socially conscious role in preparing for age-related changes in your life. Imagine your future. Where will you want to live and how might you function there? Of course, you don’t want a hospital-like environment but you will want support. Invisible Design can make whole life living in your house both possible and the logical choice, without sacrificing your sense of style.

Age in Place with Invisible Design

Invisible Design refers to aesthetically pleasing or even unnoticeable features built into your home that will provide the support you need as you age. At its best, you will be able to live where you choose throughout your whole life. For many, that means aging in their longtime home. However, Invisible Design options exist for both renovations and new construction.

We know that living where you choose tends to result in a richer, more fulfilling life. Invisible Design makes that kind of life easier to achieve.

Invisible Design means living more consciously. Today, you are conscious of at least some of the changes that you may experience at different stages of life. Working with an aging in place specialist, you can become more aware – and conscious of the features and tools that will best support your lifestyle during those times. You can already anticipate many of the benefits by taking steps now to prepare.

Why Invisible Design Matters

Invisible Design is environmentally conscious because it often relies on relatively minor changes or adaptive re-use of your existing home. Invisible Design is socially conscious because it allows you to maintain the communities and relationships you’ve built through the years. You take a leading role in designing the life you want to have now and in the future. That just feels good.

The two most common health challenges that people experience as they get older are vision changes and arthritis. Incorporating Invisible Design features that anticipate these or other changes can mean whole life living in your home.

Your Home as Your Anchor Investment

Invisible Design can be financially conscious, too. Your house is probably your biggest investment; it’s not disposable and neither is the life you built in that home. There are products on the market now that allow you to be resourceful in how you prepare your home for the long-term.

Life can throw a lot of curveballs; retirement may not be what you planned. Most families face at least some of the following:

  • Adult children move home, often bringing their own children along, for weeks or months while transitioning to a new job, home or situation.
  • Grandchildren may come for the entire summer or depend on their grandparents for even more support than that.
  • Baby Boomers may have aged parents living with them.
  • Adult children with special needs may be forever companions.
  • There’s also the growing trend of families choosing to house multi-generations under one roof for the welfare, good and happiness of all.

A well-prepared home can be a constant, a rock of stability that anchors the whole family.

Should it eventually come time to sell the house, one invisibly fitted out for whole life living offers an excellent re-sale value.


What’s the ultimate purpose of Invisible Design?

To enable vibrant living through all phases of life.

How does “design” come into the picture?

Design means interpreting each family’s unique lifestyle and priorities – what’s important to them, how they live, how they want to feel in their home and the things they must have. What are the things they can be flexible on? It’s their own program of desired features, their wish list combined with the function that will be required.

Architectural design typically involves both aesthetics and creative problem solving but, with Invisible Design, we add a third layer of invisible functionality, allowing people to stay in their homes long-term, without sacrificing the special things that make it uniquely theirs.

The alternative is having to go elsewhere and start over in a place that helps people function better, but may require sacrificing some of the other things they enjoy. Often, one of these sacrifices is aesthetics – a beautifully tiled bathroom for one with bulky grab bars, or a gourmet kitchen for a tiny kitchenette with adjustable height counters.

As a verb, Invisible Design creatively interprets needs and wishes, optimally resolving the disparities between the lifestyle you enjoy and the needs you may have in the future:  planning and preparing for eventualities unforeseen by the homeowner … and doing so in a way that nobody can tell.  One example of such planning would be prepping the bathroom with blocking behind the walls for future installation of attractive support accessories – should they ever be needed.

What would my home look like with Invisible Design?

Let’s take a tour … Imagine a house and, as you approach, rather than steps, the landscaped path gradually takes you toward the door. You feel swept along in the direction you wish to go. You might be approaching with a stroller or walking with a cane. For anyone living there or visiting, it’s easy to get there. When you host a gathering, no one will have to miss out on the fun!

At the door, there may be a little shelf or table to set your packages on so your hands are free to retrieve your keys. The front door is generously sized, though not overly large. (Even if you envision a cottage, this door feels appropriately scaled.)

Inside, the home is uncluttered, no matter how large or how modest in size. The floor space is clear, free of loose throw rugs, easy to navigate. The lighting is abundant, either from natural sources or fixtures that make it easy to see when painting that masterpiece or reading the fine print.

The arrangement of furnishings makes it easy to circulate through the space – whether for children who are playing or for someone using a walker or wheelchair. Clear space, clean space. This works with any style of decor.

There may be some degree of open plan to access the kitchen, even if this was originally an older home not designed with an open plan in mind.

Placement of the fixtures in the kitchen and the types of handles – nothing to turn! – are all convenient. Stove controls are located toward the front of the stove to prevent accidental fires; cabinet drawers rather than deep shelves are the norm; the freezer drawer pulls out, and faucets are touch-activated.

Appliances are whatever works best for you. For example, the microwave may have a drawer instead of a door. The dishwasher may be a little higher than usual, making it easy for anyone with arthritis to load and unload.

For upkeep, you may have a ‘whole house vacuum,’ in which you simply sweep dust into grooves in the floor and push a button on the wall to take it away, no bending or stooping necessary.

High use rooms are located adjacent to one another; bedrooms are easy to access. The master bedroom may have its own bathroom, with a curbless shower instead of a tub. In a multi-level home, there is an easily accessible bathroom on the main floor, which also makes it easier for guests who are less mobile.

The bathroom might have grab bars that don’t look like grab bars – because they are also towel bars or toilet paper holders. Shampoo shelves or soap dishes that look very modest in your shower can also help keep you stable or provide a place to lean on because they can support up to 500 pounds of weight.

All dressed and ready to go? No step (no threshold) doorways are the norm. Exit via a flat slab garage or driveway in your own car or take advantage of ride-share options. Whatever your style, Invisible Design makes whole life living in your house possible, safer and more comfortable.


3 Things to Consider When Asking: Should my aging parent move into my house?

Should my parent move into my house? I get this question a lot. Though I am an architect, here are 3 things I encourage people to consider before we even begin discussing their design or renovation.

What’s the reason for your parent moving in?

Perhaps your other parent has died and the widowed parent is lonely; maintaining a house can be an issue, as can health conditions that require you to visit often. Your parent may even live far away and you feel the need to check on them more frequently than before.

Answering this question in an explicit way – rather than letting the ramifications of such a move predominate your thoughts – will help you evaluate your home and determine whether it’s sufficiently equipped or requires modification. Are the spaces physically configured in the best way to accommodate the situation? Even if everyone gets along, it’s an adjustment and there will be emotional needs for space. You may have three bedrooms and your kids are out of the house, but it may still be a little too “cozy” in the current configuration. Keep in mind that every generation has a different routine.

How is the health of your parent? 

Will you need an additional caregiver, perhaps overnight or potentially, in the future, to also move in? Even if the house has plenty of space and everyone is reasonably healthy, consider that arthritis and vision changes are the most common conditions that affect people as they age, so there will be other needs. Lever handles instead of turn knobs may be necessary.  And even with good health, you’ll want additional lighting. Although stairs may not be a problem, is there sufficient lighting for easy navigation — whether natural or artificial, during the day and at night?  How comfortable and easy is it for your parent to go into the kitchen and make lunch? If mobility is an issue, consideration may also be given to getting in and out of the house. Your parent may still drive, but needs extra adjustments in safely getting to and from the car. If this is difficult and prevents him or her from getting out and maintaining a familiar routine, it may lead to depression and feeling housebound, affecting everyone in the home. It manifests in different ways for different people and often results in frustration on your part.

How easy is it for your parent to maintain his or her independence, social group, or “village”?

Would moving into your home allow your parent to remain connected in some way to the people and activities he or she enjoys? If not, this could be a concern, as your parent may become dependent on you for everything. Though you may want your parent with you, your parent may be happier if he or she can somehow stay connected with the old neighborhood, and preserve his or her sense of identity. If you’re unsure, sit down and talk about it – ask how your parent would feel about not being able to participate in that group they’ve been a part of forever. Maybe they’ll talk about how they’d miss seeing their friends regularly. On the other hand, maybe what they’d really miss is doing a particular hobby or being of service in the community. Depending on their response, are there similar activities in your area that you could suggest to help ease the transition? Whether designing a house or designing a new family arrangement, the same basic rule applies: start by listening to what is most important to everyone involved. It’s the best way to find the right solution to your unique situation.

If you are asking, “Should my parent move into my house?” these are some important things to consider when weighing the options. Failing to do so could make or break the arrangement, leading to unwanted stress and hard feelings.  Although these questions are more about making sure everyone has space, balance and attention to their needs and values, we also help people with the next steps. If you are ready to prepare your home for your parent to move in, we’d be delighted to have a free 30-minute consultation with you to determine whether we could be of assistance.

CLICK HERE to schedule a call

To Improve Your Memory, Act Like a Kid

The following article by Lisa Bixler originally appeared in Prime Women magazine.

As kids, we were given all kinds of mnemonic tricks to memorize new material. Some that still come to mind are “Roy G Biv” for the colors of the spectrum, “Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally” for the order of operations in math and “My very educated mother just served us nine pizzas” for the distance of the planets from the sun. On television, the songs of Schoolhouse Rock helped us remember grammar, history and math.

These days, between juggling work and family responsibilities and living in an age of so much instant communication, sometimes it’s hard enough to remember why I just walked from one room into the next, much less process anything involving complex rules or new information.

It’s a known fact that our brains change as we age. Even the healthiest people have to make a greater effort to maintain concentration and focus, as it takes our brains more time than it did when we were younger to process and consolidate information. Life today forces us to multitask, and all the technology that surrounds us raises expectations even higher, making it extremely difficult to eliminate the competing distractions.

So what are ways to improve memory? Experts recommend starting off by writing down the things you don’t need to memorize. Doing this actually frees up the mind to focus on the things you do want to remember. After that, take a lesson from the kids in your life.

Do your homework.

Create regular habits that will help your mind learn to think differently. Give yourself active vs. passive cognitive stimulation, for instance going to a talk on a topic that interests you instead of watching a program about it on tv. Exploring new interests and using your mind in ways that you enjoy facilitates the growth of new brain cells.

We are all distracted by a combination of external and internal thoughts. Especially as women, our minds are often on multiple things simultaneously. Try repeating out loud what you are trying to remember, at different times throughout the day. Creating time for deliberate, conscious focus will allow the material to get into the hippocampus, the storage part of the brain.

Play Video GamesTake a break to play video games.

Studies have found that playing 3D video games on a regular basis is one of the ways to improve memory because it slows down the aging brain. Engaging your mind in this way has multiple benefits: it increases the amount of gray matter in the hippocampus and cerebellum, reverses the atrophy that typically occurs as people get older, and improves spatial and short term memory.

Not to be minimized are the unscientific but equally important benefits of video games, like elevating your “cool status” with the kids and grandkids and offering you another way to bond with them.

Act silly.

Our visual memory is typically stronger than our verbal memory, and we tend to remember things that are more unusual or funny. Think of some of your favorite memories with family and friends over the years and the crazy stories that are often recalled when you get together. Using this natural ability of associating what you want to remember with images that are weird or absurd, even incorporating those images into a silly story or a song, will help you retain the information. Adding rhythm and rhyme, whether in a story or song, can further accelerate the process. Just as kids in school have an easier time learning subjects they enjoy, use your favorite interests as the basis for the stories or songs you create. Making associations that are personally relevant to you will enable you to retain the information faster and easier, as you will automatically engage more of your senses in the process. A golf theme may work for some, while for others references to fashion or cooking or pop culture do the trick.

Physical ActivityA little discipline goes a long way.

Children tend to thrive in an environment that includes structure and balance, and the same can be said for our minds as we age. Cultivating lifestyle habits that balance physical activity with good sleep, our favorite food and drinks with good nutrition, and socializing with a regular spiritual practice can go a long way toward increasing our overall health and longevity.

HaVe SoDa.

To conclude this piece, I decided to practice the ways to improve memory by creating a way to memorize the above suggestions. I listed the main word from each of the four headings: Homework, Video games, Silliness, Discipline. Taking the first letter of each, I turned it into a phrase by adding a vowel beside each letter, coming up with HaVe SoDa. Not the most brilliant solution but it works for me, and it goes along with the theme of being a kid. If anyone else can up with a story or song on the topic instead, please let me know!

Be Happier and Healthier: The Benefits of Gratitude

The following article by Lisa Bixler originally appeared in Prime Women magazine.

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions.” – Zig Ziglar

Most of us learned about gratitude at a young age, in various forms. Saying a prayer before meals, being reminded to “count your blessings,” and sending thank you notes to relatives for birthday and Christmas gifts are a few that come to mind. We learned what we should do, but we didn’t really think about it much beyond that. Years later, Oprah stressed the transformative benefits of gratitude and many of us followed her lead, starting journals of our own.

The Benefits of Gratitude in Science

Today, there is no shortage of information on the internet telling us how choosing gratitude will make us happier and healthier, have better relationships, higher productivity at work, increased energy, and greater resiliency, just to name a few. I even came across one interesting website that summarizes the results of over 40 scientific studies on the subject and outlines 31 benefits “you didn’t know about.”

On an intellectual level, we all get it. But what happens when you’ve been deeply affected by traumatic circumstances? Whether it’s the health of a loved one, a toxic workplace, or a natural disaster, certain types of stress can make it difficult for even the most optimistic people to move forward after surviving in fight or flight mode for a period of time.

According to acclaimed executive coach Eva Archer Smith, an expert in the field of transformation, “Your brain has enormous neuroplasticity, so you can rewire it to change. And it changes by actions, not thoughts.” She says that one of the fastest proven ways to move from the default setting of the ‘primitive’ or fear-based brain, which senses danger and releases the stress hormone, cortisol, to the pre-frontal cortex, which releases the feel-good hormone, oxytocin, is by practicing gratitude.

Higher levels of oxytocin can reduce the body’s stress response, increase social interactions and enable people to seek support during difficult times. It also keeps the heart strong, protecting it from the effects of stress by helping the cells to regenerate. If the idea of re-learning gratitude is overwhelming, Smith recommends taking a step back and starting with curiosity, asking yourself, “How can I think about this situation differently?” Until my conversation with her I was not familiar with the link between curiosity and gratitude, but our discussion sparked my own curiosity on the subject so I dug a little deeper. I found a powerful short video on the subject by TED curator, Chris Anderson.

Then I discovered that this video is part of an amazing project by filmmaker Louis Schwartzberg, which explores the benefits of gratitude through a series of 15 film shorts, each illustrating a different behavior with a visible connection to the topic. Besides curiosity, the features include patience, forgiveness, purpose, courage, and generosity. Wow.

Living in Houston, in the past few months since Hurricane Harvey I’ve seen gratitude expressed in many of these forms. Everyone was impacted in some way, and it will be a while before the region fully recovers. Two things that I will always remember about this time are how much those who were more fortunate demonstrated gratitude by putting their own lives on hold for an extended period of time in order to help others who were not as lucky and how those who seemed to be the worst off amazingly showed the most gratitude of all.

Thousands of people who lived for weeks at the Red Cross shelter in the Convention Center were so appreciative of the smallest things, like the woman looking through organized piles of donated clothes to find something to wear to an upcoming job interview or the children who smiled at the options on the snack table and thanked the volunteers as they made their selections. No one cried or complained, including the employees who were tasked with continuously keeping all the restrooms clean. Believe it or not, they were spotless.

Among the conversations when checking in with people immediately after the storm, I heard things like, “Oh we’re fine. We only got 8 inches of water in our house.” Or, “We’re good. We only lost our cars.” These were circumstances that would typically cause people to unravel a bit, and for good reason. But when surrounded by so many others dealing with far worse situations, choosing gratitude enabled them to transition from fight or flight mode to resiliency.

One local rock star of resiliency and master of choosing gratitude is fashion designer Gayla Bentley, who lost nearly all of her personal belongings when the chest-deep flood waters destroyed her home. In order to gain closure and move forward, she channeled her curiosity and creativity and demonstrated just about every one of the 15 behaviors in those film shorts. The result? She threw a “fashion funeral” in her backyard to say goodbye to what was and start a fresh chapter. Her unique, uplifting story can be found here.

If we look around in our daily lives, we can find ways of intentionally choosing gratitude, regardless of the less than pleasant situations we may otherwise be experiencing. And when it’s difficult to immediately make the shift, going with one of the other connected behaviors will set us on the right path. To Gayla Bentley and the others who remind us how to translate an intellectual understanding of the subject into an inspirational experience that actually transforms our physical and emotional health, I would personally like to say, “I’m grateful for you.”

What to Expect When You Sit Down to Talk with Us About Your 55+ Housing


When you meet with us for a Needs and Options Review, we will ask you about your lifestyle, about what brings you comfort and excitement. Lisa Bixler, a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist believes it’s important for our 55+ clients to consider not only the logistics but also the feelings involved in creating a new home.

The theme in senior residential centers is often community connection. However, some people prefer to stay connected with their current friends and family, rather than meet a whole new group. You may or may not want to stay in your current house. We can help you with all of these scenarios.

Sustaining Family Traditions With 55+ Housing

We understand what makes a house or apartment a home, and that there are choices.

Your very first meeting will be with Lisa, and she will ask, ‘When do you feel most grounded in your current home?’

Your home is your sanctuary, where you return to recharge your batteries and feel centered. What do you love about it?

Many people naturally feel anxiety about leaving home.

‘Some older seniors hang on to being in their house,’ Lisa says. ‘There’s a sense of comfort. Our job is to recognize this comfort and integrate it into a solution that better addresses their current and future needs.’

Oftentimes, clients will tell us about solid family traditions, such as hosting their children and grandchildren for holidays. That can still be possible. Whether you are considering making modifications to your existing home or finally building that dream house by the lake, when everyone comes to Grandma’s for Christmas, it’s a place they’ll love to go.

Maintaining Active Lifestyles

Our ideas grow out of what you want, so Lisa will ask, ‘How do you enjoy spending your time?’

Aging shouldn’t mean giving up the activities that are nearest to your heart and your identity.

Maybe you love gardening and landscaping or taking your dog for long walks around the park.

Perhaps you’re working toward a goal, such as building a dining table in a wood shop. We encourage our clients not to sacrifice those life-affirming interests. We will integrate your core desires into your home, whether this is an apartment, a cottage in a 55+ complex, or a house.

Whatever your situation, your home needs to express who you are and accommodate what you love to do.

The most vibrant parts of you should really be reflected, supported and nourished in your home throughout all stages of life.

In the words of legendary architect Le Corbusier, ‘A home should be the treasure chest of living.’

We realize there are many different lifestyles. Some empty-nesters may want to travel and own low- maintenance homes. Another group may consider multi-generational living in order accommodate their grandchildren and aging parents. Increasing numbers of retirees are starting new businesses or non- profits. Any of these choices will affect the optimum design of your home. It shouldn’t be just a ‘cookie cutter’ plan.

Considering Priorities Moving Forward with 55+ Housing

We want you to consider now, while it is easiest and most affordable. Lisa will ask, ‘What are your priorities?’

If you are healthy now, you aren’t thinking about grab bars for the bathroom; your focus is elsewhere. However, you may decide to be ready for what may come, far down the road, without making a big deal of it by adding extra blocking behind the wall. Aging-in-place strategies are not just helpful for older people. Having extra support in a wet area can also come in handy while recovering from a sports injury or bathing children. Widening a doorway doesn’t just accommodate a wheelchair or walker – it also makes it easier to move furniture and carry armloads of packages.

There have been great advancements in products that serve a dual purpose – like grab bars hidden in a soap dish or toilet paper holder and stylish non-slip floor tiles.

It is completely possible to plan and prepare your home for various long range updates, but not necessarily implement them all at once.

What we don’t want is to design something that doesn’t take your family’s unique needs into consideration. For example, you may not care that your bathroom is completely remodeled if you aren’t able to regularly see your friends. In that case we’d start by focusing on how you can come and go with ease and invite your loved ones to do the same.

We work on possibilities, on what can be gained with this adaptation or move.

Many people, from residents to developers, think about a house’s size and amenities but don’t always consider what the lifestyle will be in that home.

For us, the more crucial question is:

‘What brings you joy?’

We look forward to helping you envision and achieve a home that expresses your individual answer to that most important question.

Please contact us or click here to set up your Needs and Options Review.

How Today’s Boomers are Aging in Place


As adults stay in their homes longer, they’re making sure they’re prepared for the years ahead.

Like everything else, baby boomers are redefining what it looks like to age in place.

Forget the traditional grab bars for bathroom safety that stick out like a sore thumb. They’re opting for bars that are hidden inside of towel racks, soap holders and toilet paper dispensers. After all, the rest of their home is stylish, too.

“After years of hard work, many have achieved a certain level of comfort and would like to maintain their quality of lifestyle as they get older,” says Lisa Bobulinski Bixler, a Houston architect with a Certified Aging in Place Specialist designation from the National Association of Home Builders.

Nearly 90 percent of adults aged 45 and older surveyed by AARP indicated they wanted to stay in their homes “for as long as possible” as they aged. On the flip side, a study by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and the AARP Foundation found that “…the bulk of long-term care will occur in single-family owner-occupied homes … but the homes are not prepared.”

A booming aging-in-place industry is starting to offer an array of options, including active adult communities with homes that take into consideration the needs of seniors and offer different levels of care.

“Communities that include independent living allow residents to maintain their independent lifestyle but add a socialization component that is probably missing in their current situation,” notes Kyle Exline, executive director of The Clare, a retirement residence in Chicago.

But when thinking about the home, the key is to consider adaptability, the ability of spaces to be modified for future needs, and “visitability,” the minimum level of accessibility that will allow someone with a disability basic access to the ground floor of a home.

“These are the areas that people are thinking about now so that when a situation does arise, the modifications in their home don’t seem like an afterthought,” notes Bobulinski Bixler.

While it can be challenging to create a “visitable” residence with “curb appeal,” since wider sidewalks and entry elevations make traditional landscaping and hardscaping more difficult, it’s easier to handle when integrating the new needs into the design or remodeling plans of the home, she adds.

To be sure, homes ideal for aging in place include standard features. Debra Cohen owns a referral agency in Nassau County, New York, that prescreens and refers contractors to older homeowners who need to modify or repair their homes. She says a master bedroom and bath on the first floor is the feature most in-demand, followed by a low or zero-threshold entrance to the home and a zero-threshold shower entrance.

Also important are wide doorways to accommodate wheelchairs, non-slip flooring throughout the home and lowered kitchen and bath countertops.

Bobulinski Bixler says the trend now among baby boomers is to prepare homes for aging in place without, necessarily, displaying the hardware. For instance, homes now include interior doors 3 feet wide instead of 2 feet 8 inches, including wall blocking for future fixtures and grab bars.

Retirees also are thinking ahead and building stronger ceiling structures to handle future lifts, and installing conduits for future wiring to allow spaces to be remodeled more easily and affordably when the time comes.

Throughout the house, lever handles are preferred over turn knobs, because of the age-related prevalence of arthritis, Bobulinski Bixler notes.

Some of the features many not even be for the boomers.

These “retirement homes” have to accommodate visiting children, grandchildren, and friends, in addition to the as the needs of their own aging parents. Many are helping care for an elderly or disabled parent who lives with them, Bobulinski Bixler says.

“The advantage is that today people can prepare to age in place without sacrificing an attractive, comfortable living environment,” she says.

How To Let Joy Guide Your Retirement Lifestyle

Let Joy Guide Your Choices in 55+ Housing

When you let joy guide your choices in 55+ and senior housing, it is possible not only to ‘get through’ the downsizing or move to a retirement home, but to thrive.

We’ve all seen or experienced the challenges of ‘giving up’ a home of 40 or 50 years … the emotional pathways of ‘downsizing’ to an apartment, introverts feeling ‘forced’ to socialize in a communal setting. I propose that we start to feel, talk and act differently in preparing for this stage of life.

It’s easy to worry and natural to feel a sense of loss in transitioning out of a longtime home; without doubt, it’s important to recognize and honor these feelings.

Sidestep one-size-fits all housing

Yet it is possible to also acknowledge the gains: The ease of not having to maintain an older home, the convenience of living near a favorite recreational pursuit; perhaps, the relaxation of not having to cook dinner every night. But I’m not talking about semantics or silver linings.

I’m talking about real, tangible, structural adaptations.

As an architect, I help people create, modify or develop housing that allows them to focus on what they most enjoy.

Sadly, I also meet people after they’ve made what they later realize were the wrong choices for themselves or their loved ones.

So, by ‘act differently,’ I mean let’s get away from one-size-fits-all housing. Maybe you need a larger dining area rather than that extra bedroom. If you love being with your friends, perhaps consider staying close rather than moving to the lake. Maybe it’s even possible to adapt your current home so that you can age in place.

Answer these 5 questions about retirement living

Here are five things to consider as you plan your 55+ or retirement lifestyle:

  1. How important to you are your community connections?
    • You may be drawn to a new home in the Hill Country; is that more significant than being able to meet your friends without driving over an hour each way?
    • Many clients adapt their homes to age in place because being a part of their community is so important for them and they realize this before leaving it.
    • For those building a new home or developing senior housing, doing so within the community makes it possible for those who value that community to thrive and even enjoy life more than ever.
  2. Does your life center around family fun? If you love to cook and to host gatherings, yet plan to downsize into a cottage, there are ways you can open up that space to ensure that this joyful part of your life continues in your retirement lifestyle.
  3. What are your top three personal values? Don’t lose sight of these as you consider an exciting new house or community. Your values show up in how you spend your time. For example:
    • Some couples love to travel or play golf and prefer a low-maintenance new home.
    • Others have their grandchildren in their home every day; for them it is important to look at the flow of family rooms and convertible spaces.
    • Still others have a hobby like woodworking or gardening; even housing developers can differentiate their projects from the competition by featuring access to nature, community gardens or a shared workshop or studio space. Another bonus – continuing to enjoy familiar interests helps introverts to socialize in a more relaxed way.
  4. What if your life holds new adventures? Some retirees decide to start a new business, completely unrelated to the corporate career they just left behind; others remarry.Consider whether your environment adequately supports this exciting next chapter. For instance: does your home accommodate a growing, blended family? Is there sufficient space to operate that business from home, or does the neighborhood have a co-working space that you can utilize?
  5. What does ‘coming home’ mean to you? Before you say ‘walking into my old house,’ ask yourself what exactly … sitting in a familiar chair while you watch the game? Having your flower pots outside the kitchen window? When the whole world is ‘going’ – faster and faster, it seems – how can you create an oasis, perhaps even more enjoyable than the home you are transitioning out of?

Come home to a retirement lifestyle that suits you

Often, the word ‘joy’ is paired with another that has as many meanings as there are people in the world. And that word is ‘comfort.’ Think about what it means to you. Today, there are more possibilities than ever before to achieve it.