Hawaii is graying rapidly. About 17 percent of Hawaii’s population is 65 and older. The University of Hawaii Center on Aging projects that more than 28 percent of Hawaii’s population will be at least 65 years old by 2040.

Here, where island culture lends itself to families caring for their kupuna, the growth of the older population has and will continue to affect families and living arrangements in Hawaii. Building and renovating so grandma can live with the family can be tricky. Many homes are more than 50 years old and were not built to handle an aging population dependent on wheelchairs, walkers and oxygen tanks.

With nearly 28 years of helping hundreds of Hawaii families, Graham Builders recognizes the importance of educating homeowners about the modifications needed to help family members stay at home as they get older.

In fact, Graham Builders was the first firm in Hawaii to have a certified aging-in-place specialist — a certification program administered by the National Association of Home Builders — on staff. Today, Graham Builders is proud to have three specialists helping families make necessary changes for the mobility and safety of the elderly residing in their homes.

“With Hawaii’s population aging so rapidly, it’s important that universal design and accessibility are the starting points of design for all homes,” said Ryan Graham, vice president of Graham Builders. “Being young and healthy should not deter homeowners from considering universal design features for their homes, as this allows for comfort no matter what their health circumstances are. The key words to remember are safety, security, comfort and health.”

Basic aging-in-place and universal design features include single-level homes, larger bathrooms with zero-step showers and a more open layout that allows for ease of moving from room to room. Other features include better and more accessible storage, non-slip surfaces, nightlights, space for caregivers and technology for assisted care, such as electrical bandwidth for monitoring machines.

Some features such as grab bars, comfort-height toilets and some home security systems are low-cost items. Others such as wider hallways and doors, good lighting and no-step features are considered medium-cost items but work well for wheelchairs and baby strollers.

Attend the next “Building Your Home for Life” seminar on Saturday, June 2 from 9 to 11 a.m. at Honolulu Country Club. Seminars are free, but reservations are required. To register for a seminar, visit grahambuilders.com/seminars or call 534-7858.