If you’re like most people, you’re probably hoping to age in your own home, in familiar surroundings with people you love.

“Most seniors want to live in their own homes for as long as possible, participating in favorite activities and living independently,” says Ryan Graham, vice-president of operations at Graham Builders. “Given the high cost of nursing homes, it just makes sense.”

Culturally and traditionally, island families like to take care of their elders at home. And studies show that aging in place often improves the quality of life for kupuna, which in turn improves their physical health.


Unfortunately, many island residences, especially those built before 1960, weren’t built to accommodate people with limited mobility and other health issues. Hawaii’s older homes typically have 30-inch bedroom and bathroom doors, for example. Hinges further reduce the width by a couple of inches. Many wheelchairs wouldn’t fit through such a door.

“Modifications and renovations can make older homes safer and improve navigation,” says Graham. “And new houses can be designed to accommodate a graceful, comfortable future for those who want to live at home as long as possible.”


Hiring a design/build firm with an in-house specialist on aging in place can help ensure the best possible outcome.

“When Graham Builders designs or remodels a home, special attention is paid to providing safety and comfort for kupuna,” says Graham. “It’s critical for elders to be able to manage their own personal care.”


As Oahu’s first design/build general contractor to have an aging-in-place specialist, certified by the National Association of Home Builders on its staff, Graham Builders has developed a range of accommodation designs for kupuna. Accommodations include comfort-height toilets and zero-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.

“In the old days, elders who lost their mobility were often moved into care facilities, where they stayed till the end of their lives,” says Graham. “With thoughtful design, things can be different.”

Between 2006 and 2022, the cost of care in an assisted living facility in Hawaii rose by more than 85%. The median monthly cost for a private room in a nursing home in Hawaii is now $15,055.

“If you plan to age in your home, and especially if you live in an older home, it makes sense to make safety modifications before you’ll need them,” Graham says. “Design, permitting, construction take time, and costs continue to rise; it’s a good idea to start planning right now.”


Founded in 1990, Graham Builders remains the only local general contractor honored with the Better Business Bureau Hawaii’s Torch Award for Small Business Ethics. For more than three decades, Graham Builders has helped Hawaii families design, build and modify residences to enable kupuna and those with mobility issues to live at home and age in place for as long as possible. The firm’s next free “Building Your Home for Life” seminar is scheduled at 9 a.m. on March 4. Register now at grahambuilders.com or call 808-593-2808.

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