“Mid-Century Homes Make Great Aging-In-Place Makeover Candidates”

Homes built in the middle part of the 20th century – from the 1930s to the 1960s – had some great architecture and were generally built quite well. Many are still very livable and inhabited today. 

That was a different time, however, in more than just the calendar. People lived differently, building products and furnishings were different, people had different needs and requirements, and they had different expectations from what they wanted and demanded from their homes.

Compared to today, people had fewer design choices in terms of the types of doors and the hardware to use to open those doors. The lever handle was non-existent. The barn door concept was not available although pocket doors were used.

The countertops were mostly laminate – not the granite, quartz, onyx, glass, copper, concrete, ceramic, and other choices available today. Obviously LED lighting had not been created so ceiling fixtures where located in the middle of most rooms with incandescent bulbs as the norm. Florescent bulbs were used in some kitchens, closets, and bathrooms.

Flooring choices were generally hardwood – until people started covering them up with carpeting, as well as linoleum – and then vinyl tiles, and terrazzo. That evolved into ceramic and a few other products, but recently is where we have seen so many changes with laminates, engineered wood, polished and stamped concrete, marble, travertine, porcelain, slate, stone, and several other hard-surface products.

Older homes had narrower doorways and hallways. That’s just what was done. Of course, walkers didn’t exist as we know them today until the 1970s so mobility was different in that era. People generally weren’t as large physically as we see today. Also people didn’t expect to age-in-place as much as we do today although many aging parents were asked to live with their adult children.

Air conditioning was not original equipment in these homes. Window units or central air may have been added, but the homes did not come this way because the technology was not there. There are still homes of this vintage without air conditioning.

Of course, electricity requirements were much different then also. In addition to air conditioning not being available in most homes, technology did not exist like today so there were no home computers, copiers, digital TVs, gaming stations, surround sound systems, security systems, and other low-voltage products.

Electrical service coming into the home generally was 60 amp service as compared with 200-400 today. Portable hair dryers, microwaves, toaster ovens, pool or spa heaters or pumps, and other large energy users weren’t available then so the electrical demand wasn’t either. Rather than the breaker panels that are commonplace today, fuse boxes with glass fuses were what was used.

Whether it is creating more visitable exteriors and entrances, foyers and vestibules, hallways, and main floor bathrooms – or eliminating steps that people use to get to the doorway – there are many aging-in-place projects awaiting us.

Widening doorways, replacing door and cabinet hardware, changing out heavier and generally harder to operate wooden sashed single- and double-hung windows with aluminum or vinyl clad single-hung windows or crank-out casement ones, and replacing harsh or inadequate central ceiling fixtures with more versatile LED lighting choices are some of the many projects we can undertake in these vintage homes that will make a huge difference in the way people live in and enjoy them.

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