Adaptable homes

AdaptABILITY means the home is ready to change as your needs change

click to enlarge Adaptable homes
The kitchen has an open floor plan, with large space between the island and cabinets. It also includes a drop-down lower counter.

What if you could live in a home that is designed for a current physical health need – OR – for a need that might occur in the future? That is the premise behind Cathy Boerke's new Springfield business, AdaptABILITY Homes. With the motto "Living Forward," the business offers home construction, home assessments and digital monitoring systems so that more people can remain in independent living for a longer time.

With a background in real estate, senior care and construction, Boerke has partnered with builder Stephen Sgro to design and build condos that are adaptable for any ability need – at any age.

One condo, located at 1471 Dearborn Drive in Springfield's Oak Park Estates, is currently for sale for $399,000, with a second unit being completed. Each has three bedrooms, three baths and a two-car garage. There is a lower level for more room, especially for a family with children. A back patio, that can be enclosed, looks out on a nice yard.

"We offer a living space that provides for many different situations," Boerke says. "So many people today want to stay in their home for as long as possible, yet physical challenges often force them to leave. We have designed the homes for anyone – for someone currently in a wheelchair, for someone who is perfectly healthy but recognizes the future may bring more challenges, and even for a young couple wanting to raise a family and then grow old in their home. One never knows the future."

The name of the business, AdaptABILITY, is suitable, as the condo can be adapted for various abilities.

Many conventional houses have steps into the home. That alone creates problems for someone who needs a walker or a wheelchair, either now or in the future. The adaptability condo has no steps, but rather a flat surface at the entry. "That could be a feature needed for someone in a wheelchair," Boerke says, "but one never knows what might happen. You could break a leg or have surgery and the entryway would be of help."

click to enlarge Adaptable homes
The home at 1473 Dearborn includes a stepless entry, a ring/video doorbell, and the garage is prewired for an electric car hookup.

On a tour of the condo, Boerke points out the already built-in items that work for anyone – toilets at comfort height, sensor lights in closets, a prewired electric car hookup in the garage, outlets placed for easier reach, rollout drawers and a drop-down lower counter in the kitchen, a ring/video doorbell, and smart technology for the thermostat, garage door etc. All these features fit everyone's needs, no matter their age.

Doorways are wide. The bathroom is spacious. The area between the kitchen island and cabinets is large. All these features would accommodate someone using a wheelchair or crutches.

Other items have been built into the design and can be adapted if needed. For example, a front board inside the bathroom vanity cabinet can be removed to allow for better wheelchair access. A staircase to the lower level is wide enough for a stairlift.

Part of Boerke's interest in starting her company comes from her background. Her father was a contractor, so she was around construction growing up here in Springfield. She earned a degree in art from Washington University in St. Louis. After she married, she lived for a time in New York and worked in the real estate industry. When she moved back to Springfield, she worked in senior care and saw many needs of seniors.

She earned certification to be an aging in place specialist through the National Association of Home Builders. Part of her business is assessing homes. "This is basically doing an inspection and pointing out things," she says. "For instance, someone with Parkinson's should remove rugs. Others might need to install handbars or need more lighting in an area."

click to enlarge Adaptable homes
A spacious bath includes a toilet at comfort height and a vanity with easy access from a wheelchair. Right: Fireplace in a slat wall with shelving.

Another part of her business is working with a company called "envoy at Home" a digital monitoring system. Boerke explains, "This is not a button that someone wears and can push when needing help. It is not a camera. Instead, sensors are placed around the home and through an app a caregiver can be alerted to a problem or check on a loved one. The system learns behaviors and generates reports that can be taken to the doctor."

The "envoy at Home" literature lists situations where the sensor system proved to be important – it alerted a man's family that he was attempting to leave the house at 4 a.m. A woman was alerted that she might have a urinary tract infection after the sensor data recognized an unusual pattern of visits to the bathroom.

Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show that the population of people 65 and over in 2019 was 54 million , a significant increase from 39.6 million in 2009. By 2060 that number is projected to reach 97 million. By 2030 the number of seniors is expected to surpass the number of children 13 and under.

This research and Boerke's experience in hearing from so many who wanted to stay in their homes but were finding that impossible due to the home's design, spurred her to start her business. She says, "I've been able to combine my training in art and love of design with my knowledge of construction and experience with people of all ages with health and physical needs. I'm enjoying the work so much."

Boerke has a busy schedule and still finds time to serve on the boards of Sojourn House and the Springfield Center for Independent Living. She just assumed the presidency of the Springfield King's Daughters Organization.

She looks forward to building more condos and helping people find a home that provides "living forward" adaptability.

Cinda Ackerman Klickna watched her father struggle with steps and house design when he needed to use a wheelchair.

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