Creating an Aging in Place Family Home

Remodeler Russ Glickman Learned Valuable Lessons From Home Life

 And Has Become An Acknowledged Expert In Accessible Design

“A traditional house can adapt to all kinds of special requirements,” says remodeler and long-term Potomac resident Russ Glickman.  “We’re now seeing more demand for plans that will serve all members of the family, and through all phases of their life. The challenge is in thinking through foreseeable needs, and planning for contingencies.”

Glickman, president of Glickman Design Build and a nationally recognized expert in whole catalogue of accessible design solutions, has learned these lessons from a variety of life experiences.

First, as a certified specialist who recently received a coveted Chyrsalis award in the Universal Design category, he has consulted in home adaptations throughout the metro area.

But, foremost, as a father and grandfather, he’s come to regard the 21st Century home as an essentially malleable accommodation that—with proper design– can serve a homeowner’s whole life requirements no matter how challenging they may seem.

Glickman says he first discovered this new way of thinking in the late 1980’s when he and his wife, Anne, bought a spacious two-story center hall Colonial shortly after their third child was born. The 3,200 square foot 4-bedroom house featured a spacious first level with den, a large front porch and a 1,000 square foot unfinished lower level. It was soon apparent, however, that some of the home’s existing layout might prove problematic since the newborn, Michael, would probably have some mobility challenges.

“When a child is small you can carry them from an upstairs bedroom to the kitchen or bathroom,” Glickman recalls. “ But because the doctors were still learning about Michael’s condition, we didn’t know what adjustments to the home’s physical space might be needed.”

With two older daughters and a dog, the Glickmans maintained a busy, playful household.  As a builder and a father, though, Glickman began looking ahead at ways to reconfigure the house that would work better for everyone.

This became a particular priority when, by age four, Michael was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and it was clear that he would need a wheel chair.

“We thought it would be easier for Michael if we moved his bedroom to the first floor– so we converted the den for this purpose. Once he learned to operate his motorized wheel-chair, he would be able to move about the first floor on his own volition.”

While these adjustments were underway, Glickman was also busily designing his “familyplay time” masterpiece, a 1,200 sq ft porch that wraps the house on three sides. Complete with unobtrusive ramps that segue to a paved walkway custom-sized to Mike’s wheel chair, the porch features two spacious gazebos, an outdoor kitchen, a wisteria bower, a hot tub and several ground level exits that access a lovely pond in the rear of the home.

“It’s essentially a Victorian design,” Glickman says. “Very welcoming and spacious. It’s a place where the whole family can enjoy the outdoors together.”

Part of the challenge of maintaining a special needs household, Glickman notes, is recognizing when its time to make a change, and providing supportive considerations.

When Michael was 14 (and had reached the appropriate stage of emotional maturity), Russ and Anne decided to build-out the home’s lower level so that Michael would have his own “bachelor pad”.

“It was really a big step. A move towards more privacy and independence,” Anne Glickman observes.

The finished lower level now includes Michael’s master suite, quarters for overnight guests, and a well-appointed family room.

Michael has his own patio situated next to the pond in the rear of the house. It’s a great spot for the entire clan to watch the sunset.

To facilitate Michael’s mobility, Russ Glickman re-graded a slope on the north side of the house, making it easier for Michael to move from his private entrance in the rear of the home to the front porch–which is accessible by a custom-designed ramp.

Glickman also changed the home’s original dining room into a parlor, converting the former living room into an outsized dining room that opens directly on to the side porch

Although older daughters Caitlin and Rebecca have fled the nest, both siblings live near by, and frequently come over for cook-outs and other family occasions.

Michael is active in a United Cerebral Palsy program, which he attends daily.

Glickman says his son may eventually move to a group home– in which case, he and Anne may adapt the house for their own next phase, a plan that could include an elevator.

“A home is a kind work in progress– with a lot of chapters,” Glickman says.

“It is best when it can be periodically revised–so that it works for everyone, and in every phase of their lives. I see Americans somewhat returning the idea of a family home.  It’s a very stabilizing way to embrace the future.”

Russ Glickman periodically offers workshops on Special Needs and Aging-in-Place design solutions. For Information: 301/ 444-4663, or GlickmanDesignBuild.com

John Byrd