As we celebrate Fourth of July today, many Americans will be thinking about freedom.

The word, like the day, has tremendous significance for many people. For some, it raises images of colonists signing the Declaration of Independence. For others, it represents long-awaited family gatherings and glorious firework displays.

And for many people, the word represents the ability to live independently in one’s own home, the freedom to set one’s own schedule, to entertain guests and enjoy family members — and most of all, freedom from the high cost of nursing homes.


For the first time in history, the U.S. Census Bureau projects there will be more elders than children in the U.S. in less than 10 years. The cost of care in an assisted living facility rose by more than 79% between 2006 and 2020.

“Median monthly costs in Hawaii now range from $1,582 for adult day healthcare to $13,323 for a private room in a nursing home,” reports Bonnie Oda, director of client care for Graham Builders.


The move itself can be traumatic.

“Most seniors want to live in their own homes for as long as they possibly can, living their lives as they’ve always done,” she continues. “And in Hawaii, culturally and traditionally, families like to take care of their elders at home for as long as possible.”

But homes must be made comfortable,safe and barrier free. Many island residences, especially those built before 1960, simply don’t meet the criteria. When they were constructed, designers and builders weren’t thinking about accommodating people with limited mobility and other health issues.

“As an example, Hawaii’s older homes typically have doorways between 24 and 26 inches wide,” Oda observes. “Hinges reduce the width by a couple of inches. Many wheelchairs wouldn’t fit through such a door.”

Historically, Oda adds, kupuna who lost mobility were often moved into care facilities, where they stayed till the end of their lives.

“Thankfully, these days, things can be different.”



As humans age, we’re typically challenged by health issues that limit mobility and compromise safety, especially for those of us who live in older homes. Common issues range from sleep deprivation, high blood pressure and rheumatoid arthritis to hip and knee replacements, strokes, and Parkinson’s disease.

“When Graham Builders designs or remodels a home for a family with members from several generations, special attention is paid to kupuna and any family members with limited mobility or special needs, no matter their ages,” says Oda. “It’s really important for people to be able to manage their own personal care.”

The firm’s accommodating designs include comfort-height toilets and low-step showers wide enough to hold wheelchairs, as well as closets with accessible rods and shelves. Along with wider hallways and doorways, other modifications might include the creation of a full accessible bathroom and bedroom on the ground floor of a two-story home.

The company has developed a new concept called AGE-ility™ to promote design/build services specifically for aging in place. As Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists (CAPS), a designation awarded by the National Association of Homebuilders, Oda and several other Graham Builders employees have extensive training in the design of homes that can quickly adapt for family members with reduced mobility.

Families whose members hope to age at home should begin adapting their homes as soon as possible, Oda suggests, especially if the homes are older.

“The sooner the better, if you know you’ll just need to do it later anyway,” she says. “Planning and making changes to your home takes time, and costs are escalating. It makes sense to take action now.”


For more than three decades Graham Builders has been helping Hawaii families design, build and modify residences to accommodate disabilities. You are invited to register for the company’s free virtual “Building Your Home for Life” seminar on Saturday, July 10, at, or call 808-593-2808.

CONTACT 808-593-2808
ADDRESS 1144 Young St., Honolulu