Built to welcome the handicapped A family's residence is ready for the elderly, too

Dream Home

June 02, 1996|By Daniel H. Barkin | Daniel H. Barkin,SUN STAFF

True, Dr. Michael Gloth has just turned 40, but -- notwithstanding the milestone and a few aches and pains from his house move last weekend -- he still doesn't have any problems getting around his new, 2,800-square-foot home on 2 acres in Finksburg.

So why did he insist on features that would be handicapped-friendly?

Well, it helps to know that Dr. Gloth is director of the geriatrics division at Union Memorial Hospital, an institution where the Baltimore native once worked as a teen-age orderly.

For Dr. Gloth, the architectural challenges facing the elderly -- particularly the increasingly frail seniors in their 80s and 90s -- are not simply the personal concerns facing baby boomers with aging parents. They are problems he wrestles with in his professional life.

So when Dr. Gloth and his wife, Maybian, began to think about building a custom home, they assumed that some day it would have to accommodate elderly residents with special needs.

Given the aging of the American population, it's a safe bet that eventually someone living in the home -- the Gloths, their parents or a future purchaser -- would need a bedroom on the first floor, halls and doorways wide enough for wheelchairs, and door handles that easily opened.

"Really, the idea was -- if one of our parents had a problem -- that we would easily have this thing wheelchair-accessible," said Dr. Gloth, and "be able to handle things, make it as user-friendly to them as possible, with relatively little renovations on our part."

"Essentially, if we thought about it as we were building the house, we wouldn't have to spend a lot of money doing things."

The Gloth home looks much like the other upscale residences in Beaver Creek Estates, a new custom-home community of more than 100 lots, where homes run from around $300,000 up to $550,000. From the road, it's easy to miss the ramp that runs from the driveway to the covered front porch. "It's designed so that it's not obvious," said Dr. Gloth. Even the threshold of the front door is low enough to allow a wheelchair easy access to the foyer.

Dr. Gloth's home office is to the left of the two-story, ceramic-tiled foyer. The room could easily be converted into a first-floor bedroom. And the sun room a few steps away, with its own outside entrance, could be transformed into a bedroom.

Just off the hallway is a bathroom ready for handrails to be attached to thick pieces of lumber waiting between the studs behind the tiled walls.

The kitchen features a large, U-shaped counter, with a gas cook top on one side and a sink on the other. A breakfast nook at the rear of the kitchen occupies a bay that projects out from the back of the home. Window seats provide a convenient place for the Gloths' two children -- Anna, 4, and Mary-Kate, 2 -- to sit while eating.

The kitchen was designed to allow a wheelchair to comfortably navigate around the counters and through the doors to the family room and dining room. A stairway leads from the family room up to the second floor, which has four bedrooms, including the master suite.

The 12-by-13-foot dining room, with doorways five feet wide, is between the living room at the front of the house and the kitchen at the rear.

The Gloths' builder was Tab Homes, one of a number of companies active in the Beaver Creek development. Tab, which left many of the oak, hickory and maple trees on the wooded lot, won praise from Dr. Gloth for meeting his accessibility requirements.

"The fastest-growing segment of our population is over the age of 85," said Dr. Gloth. "So we are all going to have much more exposure to frail older individuals."

"I see family members who care for parents all the time," he said. "It probably doesn't happen enough in this society.

"But in the circumstance where it does happen, it can be very problematic for a functionally impaired older individual," particularly when houses are not suited to those with disabilities, he said.

Pub Date: 6/02/96

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