Historic Architecture: Aging- In-Place Checklist

You can have historic architecture and age-in-place with pragmatic decisions. When we searched for a home we wanted a historic one; one where I could relieve work stress with my handyman passion and preserve historic architecture. Due to our ages we purchased with a goal of aging-in-place while preserving historic character, design and materials.  The following are recommended aging-in-place desired features, along with completed and future planned improvements.

Aerial of Backyard Access

Aerial of Backyard Access


Low maintenance home exterior depends on the amount of brick, the more the better. We compromised our total brick goal for our love of the house’s appearance.

Lowering yard maintenance was achieved by adding a twelve foot wide concrete driveway, recycled brick pavers, self-sustaining planting beds and a natural lawn (whatever comes up green).

Accessible parking was another benefit of the twelve foot driveway addition; access to the front entrance and the back yard.

Low maintenance vegetation that is drought resistant is being integrated with existing vegetation.  Old deciduous trees which generate large amounts of leaves are not being replaced. Annuals and perennials will be minimized with mulch or hardscape as we age.

Accessible path of travel to the front entrance has one step. With addition of a future temporary, unobtrusive metal ramp and handrail access should not be problem.

Two-level back yard will be accessible with a future ramp. The added brick paver walk allows access to workshop, vegetable plots, etc. And it is great for small grandchildren’s riding toys.

Main entry door threshold height can provide cost effective and accessible compliant with a minimally obtrusive sloped threshold extension.



Main living is available on the first floor with a bath, bedroom and no steps. One-floor-living was improved by the replacement of window units with a new geo exchange HVAC system with separate units upstairs and downstairs. The existing first floor doors enclosing the stair will remain, minimizing heat loss to the second floor.

Raised flooring transitions between rooms, prevalent in historic homes, can easily be minimized to ½” height.

Accessible first floor full bathroom with its two foot wide door will accommodate most physically, normal weight elderly individuals with a power chair. Bath accessibility can be enhanced by replacing the tub with a low slope floor handicap shower, providing a convenient five foot turn around.

Turn space of 25 SF is available in all first floor living areas.

Hallways exceed 36 inch width and are well lit.

Power chairs have overcome most of the aging-in-place issues in historic homes, inside and outside. These chairs are cost effective, minimizing major capital improvements, if any.

For non-historic home retrofits go to NAHB for a more comprehensive aging-in-place check list. There are a lot of ways to age-in-place practically in a historic home, maintain its history, enjoy your home and your historic passion.