Volume 46, Issue 5 - June 2007

Products are Important
Manufacturers Keep Design in Mind

The American Society of Interior Designers offers guidance about what contractors and remodelers should do to meet the requirements of the aging-in-place market. They should widen doorways to at least the ADA guideline minimum of 32 inches. They should also install easy-to-manipulate door locks, and avoid traditional thumb-activated mechanisms. 

But when manufacturers are producing products or designing them, are they keeping the aging-in-place concept in mind?

Kevin Pine, JELD-WEN product marketing manager, says his company does. 

“JELD-WEN offers a number of products that are suitable for homeowners as they grow older. For example, we can accommodate requests for wider doors from homeowners who might face mobility issues today or in the future,” he says.

Pella Corp. also keeps products in mind for the aging market, but they tie the aging-in-place concept in with universal design. “Pella already provides products and services to meet the needs of this market, including the convenience of in-home consultations for customers seeking new or replacement windows and doors, connecting them with installation services and service support after the sale should they need it through a dedicated network for Pella Window and Door service representatives,” says Gary Mathes, manager, residential architectural support services.

Joe Gaskins, vice president of sales at MGM Industries in Hendersonville, Tenn., says his company has seen a large use of low-E products from baby boomers. “Senior adults are in their homes a lot more than young adults, and the low-E has some inherent values as well as energy conservation, but I think the big thing about that is the comfort of the home,” Gaskins says.

Gaskins says it’s also becoming popular to have night latches on windows, which allow you to only open the window six inches. “We’ve had more requests for that in new construction products … especially for people who are aging and want to be able to raise their windows but won’t allow someone to raise the window from the outside high enough to get in the house.”

Start the Motor
“Visions products offer many features and upgrade options that make them more conducive to aging homeowners. Single-throw locks on casement windows make it easier for someone who may be in a wheelchair to unlock and open the window,” Ernie DeBacco, national sales manager for Visions Windows & Doors in Mosinee, Wis., says. “Casement windows are generally the preferred window for active-adult communities because the window’s operator facilitates easier opening, but as a special upgrade, Visions also offers a motorized operator for casement and awning windows.”

Karen Pollard-Josling, marketing manager, Pollard Windows in Burlington, Ontario, says when designing products, her company keeps the aging population in mind. “We want our customers for life, so we want them to be able to comfortably use our products during all stages of their life,” she says. “The population is aging and these concerns are more apparent; we consider this with every design.”

Break Out the Hardware
“Our door systems feature barrier-free sill options and wider widths to accommodate the needs of persons restricted to wheelchairs,” says Jeff Williams, senior brand manager, architectural marketing, Weather Shield®. “Our casement windows are available with specialty designed crank handles that are easier to operate and feature extra-large handle knobs that are easier to grip. We also stress the use of windows in universal design plans where daylight plays a critical role in home health issues and lighting/electricity conservation.”

Many door and window manufacturers say hardware is one of the features that makes their products easier to manipulate for the aging population. So what are the hardware manufacturers keeping in mind as far as design options for the aging in place?

Gary Hartman, product manager, HOPPE North America in Fort Atkinson, Wis., says his company’s products make living in their home easier for the aging in place, whether they are building a new home or remodeling an existing home.

“The primary method of lock/latch retraction in our product offering is the lever,” Hartman says. “To push down a lever 28 degrees to exit a door is much easier on the wrist and arm than turning a knob 100-plus degrees.”

Hartman says the Hoppe bored lock series and the recently introduced HLS 7 series multi-point lock systems represent the company’s development efforts to meet the needs of every consumer regardless of the life stage they are in.

Rob Munin, vice president of Ultra Hardware in Pennsauken, N.J., says his company has launched an innovation in door hardware to meet baby boomers’ needs. “We have designed a line of door hardware called New Beginnings from Gainsborough,” he says. “New Beginnings provides a variety of lever handles with distinct and modern design styles.” 

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