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March 22, 2021

Custom Age in Place Living

The home that won HDM’s Gold 55+ Design Award is not located in an age-targeted or age-restricted neighborhood like The Villages. It was not built by your typical 55+ provider like Del Webb, Elevate, or other well-known 55+ builder. Instead, Falcon’s Rest is a custom home built in a resort setting for 55+ buyers looking for a home to age gracefully in.

There seems to be a disconnect between custom builders and 55+ builders, this despite the fact that a great deal of custom homes are built for people over 55. A custom builder may build a beautiful home, but they may not be attuned to the features that make a 55+ home perfect for their buyers. “Just a ranch plan with big doors,” one builder told me. On the other hand, production 55+ builders have great standard 55+ features, but don’t ask them to do anything custom or build outside their communities.

Educating all builders – including custom builders – on the needs of 55+ buyers is just one of the goals of NAHB’s 55+ council. A picture is worth a thousand words, so let’s look at the photos and features that made this home a winner.

Home is a Destination

One of the challenges for empty nesters is that their house is, well, empty. This family has three grown children who left the nest. And while they were glad their kids were living their own lives, they wanted to create a place where their kids and hopefully someday – grandkids would like to visit.

The second floor was designed with this goal in mind. Instead of returning to the juvenile bedrooms they grew up in, this house features three king size bedrooms, each with a bath. Additionally, there were second floor amenities like a beverage center, perfect for coffee in the morning or a night cap in the evening. The second-floor deck is an ideal spot to enjoy that beverage with stunning views to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Pre-Retirement Lifestyle

I’ve been told the trick to retirement is not to wait until you retire to enjoy a retirement lifestyle. Locating this home with access to golf, boating, and hiking ensures that there is plenty to do outdoors. There is even a putting green in the backyard.

The other half to enjoying the pre-retirement lifestyle is having a great place to work. This home boasts a his-and-her first-floor office. The room could later be converted to a bedroom for a future home health care worker, should the need arise.

Active Adult Lifestyle

In keeping with the theme of “active” adults, this home boasts a second floor “bonus” room filled with equipment to stay fit including two stationary bikes, a Pilates chair, weights, and room for yoga. For overflow guests – or hopefully someday grandchildren, there is a bunk room at the end of the bonus room. Let this be a reminder that stairs are not taboo in 55+ housing! Part of keeping active means climbing stairs, especially for exercise.


Too often, lighting decisions come late in the design selection process. In a 55+ home, the lighting needs are more critical – a sixty-year-old needs six times as much light as a twenty-year-old. This home not only has ample lighting but it also joyful. The pendant light under the vaulted family room ceiling resembles leaves on trees while the dining fixture is just fun!

The kitchen boasts three types of lighting: task lighting (under cabinet lighting and recessed cans), ambient lighting (puck lights in the glass upper cabinets), and decorative lighting (over island pendant fixtures).

For wayfinding lights, the are step lights along the steps leading to the second floor. Those same step lights are in each toilet room to provide safe middle of the night lighting. In all the bathrooms, the lighting comes from the side of the mirrors – not above – this creates a more flattering and functional form of lighting. In the owner’s bath, there is a window behind the makeup vanity along with a magnifying mirror.

The Dog as the Surrogate Grandkids

As the family waits for grandkids, the dogs rule the house. The backyard is fenced for the dogs to run and romp, and the home features a dog shower when they’ve had too much fun. The dog shower is in the garage so when the dog shakes off the water, it lands harmlessly on the garage floor.

Creature Comforts

We all get aches and pains as we age, why not include “creature comfort” features? The floor and towel bar in the owner’s bath are heated and, with the endless hot water heater, the shower time can be extended.

Outdoor Living

Finally, this house has outdoor living in spades. Its starts with the front porch where the family waits for the guests to arrive. The L shaped screen porch has three functions including lounging while watching the TV, the fireplace – or both, outdoor dining, and outdoor cooking. There is even a pass-through window from the kitchen to the outdoor dining area. The screen disappears when the weather is right allowing family and friends to spill out on the putter green. There is even a firepit for late night gatherings and roasting of marshmallows.


Of course, the house has big doors and a ramp between house and the garage. Age in place living doesn’t always have to shout about it, and 55+ living isn’t restricted to 55+ communities. Let’s face it, no one wants to be reminded that they are getting old. We want to design houses that plan for the future but allow homeowners to enjoy the present.

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This post was written by Housing Design Matters