How One Couple Transformed Their Brooklyn Brownstone to Age in Place

With lots of rooms — and stairs — a 19th-century brownstone isn’t an easy place to grow old. But after 40 years in Park Slope, they wanted to stay put.

Comments: 201

  1. Love this! My wife and I plan on making our small two car garage into a one-bedroom apartment and move into it in our later years.

  2. Is that legal ? Somehow I bet you will sell your home, take the money and move to something smaller and cheaper and pocket the difference.

  3. @Chuck Where will you keep your vacuum cleaner, luggage, kitty litter box, and so many other things we need in our daily lives? And no longer any holiday celebrations? Jus the bed and the TV?

  4. As we are currently in the middle of a remodel to our 100-year-old house, I studied every word of this article. Yes, there is noise, there is dust. There are conversations with the neighbors. I am spending all day most days comforting my frightened indoor kitty. But piece by piece, it is coming together and every day ends with a smile--- the new bathroom fan! the bigger bedroom! the new porch! Two suggestions: get a contractor who is good at communicating (ours is superb in this area) and do something that improves the curb appeal. The neighbors will enjoy looking at the latter and contemplating the increase in the their own home's value.

  5. @Sharon: Good suggestions, but in an NYC landmark district, there's not a lot you can do to 'improve curb appeal'!

  6. Curb appeal: Clean windows, cleanly painted muntins, brownstone that is not flaking, wrought-iron railings and newel posts that aren't corroded, no trash on the sidewalk, a lilac tree in the front garden. Voila!

  7. Love the renovation but sad they could not stay in the upper floors. I plan to retire in my Fort Lauderdale town home in 25 years. I bought it because it has an elevator for my aging parents, but they never visit. Now that elevator is my ticket for longevity in that house.

  8. @NC We consider retiring to Hollywood or somewhere else in Broward, but have concerns about the climate issue. I am glad you are hopeful. I truly don't know. We love being near the beach. As for this article, it gave me much to think about as my husband and I age. We live in a one story home on a huge lot. We'd have to do renovations if we age in place. He had a major surgery last year and thankfully, there was a handrail that we barely see (as a vine grows over it) attached to the two steps leading to our porch. The hospital caseworker asked if we had such a thing. We did and almost never used it. We used it when he first arrived home though. A wheelchair could never fit into any door in our house, maybe our tiny house (which is too tiny for him). A lot of think about.

  9. Well done, with a calm and clean look, and within a budget, to boot. They now have a place that will suit them for as long as they want it, plus a rental.

  10. It all looks lovely, but the amount of money it takes to live this kind of lifestyle upstairs, downstairs, in the Hamptons, in a cottage, or just under an awning is staggering especially when compared to a recent interview on NPR’s marketplace, which featured a man working three jobs while living in his car. $10,000 a month. wow.

  11. @MG They have the money. But I suppose you're a socialist who wants these seniors to redistribute their money so you can upgrade? Where and how they live is their choice. It clearly states their financial status and the fact much of the remodeling came from selling another property they've long had. This has ZERO to do with NPR's exploitation of a man working three jobs and living in his car — which, of course, makes no sense.

  12. @Mary O'Shaunessy : curious to know how NPR "exploited" the man ?

  13. @Mary O'Shaunessy - Nice to be floating along on the top deck of the USS Titanic, eh, Mary? FWIW, the (R)'s Socialism-for-the-Rich tax policies, have been redistributing money from working peeps to the Pluto-Corporatocracy for the past 40 years. I agree, however - it's just so tacky when NPR "exploits" the struggles of the poor by pointing out their "senseless" difficulties. Let 'em eat cake…

  14. Great job with the garden level apartment. I live in a garden level of a brownstone, I think it is very cozy.

  15. I was just wondering if the cost and inconvenience was really worth it. It appears that just adjusting to a new home might have been much easier and no dealing with headaches of being a landlord. I wish them all the best!

  16. @Lisa Lee I wouldn't under-estimate the stress of moving to a new house after many decades in one place upon an elderly, poorly, physically fragile person. My grandfather outright refused, despite the practical difficulties of remaining in their house, and given his sight, hearing, heart and mobility issues any move could have proven more than he could cope with. Financially, at c. $10k/mnth the rent from the property will pay for the renovations in under 6 years, and they'll have enhanced the property value along the way anyway. Plus, they were already landlords anyway, so they know what they are dealing with.

  17. @Lisa Lee They were a landlord before with the garden apartment, so one might presume life is a bit easier now when you are renting to people who can afford $9000-$10000 a month for the main unit.

  18. Of course it was worth it! The house has been paid for, and worth millions more than the $600K they sunk into the renovations. If they rent or sell the property, they are securing an investment that will appreciate significantly for future generations.

  19. Yet again, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous! Why not write about New Yorkers with realistic budgets?

  20. @Bonnie I wouldn't call them rich and famous! They bought the house 40 years ago for a reasonable price, and it appreciated considerably over time. The renovations to the rental will pay all this cost back in just a few years. Lots of people have found that property they bought when they were just starting out increased in value. Good for them that this enabled them to stay in their old neighborhood, where they raised their family, among their neighbors.

  21. @Ruby Indeed. This is the first article in weeks that isn’t about two 37 year olds who just bought a $4 million house. Well done, for once.

  22. @Ruby , they used savings and sold a Hamptons house for 400,000. They’re way ahead.

  23. Sleek but shallow quartzite, a glass derivative was used for the Sussman's new kitchen countertop, to imitate solid stone. The extension looks unbeveled and too sharp in a 90 degree edge. Perhaps quartzite cant be beveled. The brown cabinets and solid backsplash enhance the antique wood parlor windows, floor and bench. The backyard before and after is a dramatic improvement for any old brownstone as long as there is adequate drainage.

  24. @Nadine Hi Nadine, Just wanted to mention that the stone we used, Quartzite, is a natural material. Caesarstone is a common, artificially made alternative that people often use, made of ground up quartz. I never use artificial materials that try to emulate natural ones.

  25. @Dan Kaplan Congratulations on a beautiful design. I enjoyed this article and the pictures more than any real estate article in recent years. Wish I lived close enough to have a consultation!

  26. @Dan Kaplan Just wanted to say, excellent job! Many of the naysayers in these comments clearly did not read the article carefully, and others are, I think, just resentful of one thing or another whether it be modern design or that this couple has enough money to do a reno like this. As an older person, I love what the Sussmans have done with your help. A lot of people are critical of some of the choices and think we older folk should be focusing on complete wheelchair accessibility. Sometimes, though, all we need is a walk-in shower wide enough to handle a shower seat and a walker. Getting to live a few more years in a place we’ve loved for decades is one of several ways to define ‘ageing in place.’ Most of us will eventually move to assisted living or nursing care no matter how elder-friendly our spaces are designed. When the Sussmans finally do sell, the garden apartment will be fantastic for a young couple starting out. It would also make a great unit for in-laws. This reno is a solid improvement to the property as well as the quality of life of the Sussmans.

  27. when i first read that an addition had been added, I thought "no more yard , no more garden" but they did it so well. They filled in previously unusable space, and made the yard more welcoming.

  28. When I last lived in Brooklyn during the late 1970s a close friend owned a three level brown stone home around the corner from the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He told me it was then valued at $90,000. I can just imagine what the value is today.

  29. @Tonjo My cousins and I have the bill of sale from the wide brownstone that our family owned and sold in 1960- prime Park Slope near the park - $20,000. It is now worth $3,500,000

  30. I prefer the old bathroom. That tile ( basket weave?) is gorgeous.

  31. @Maggie yes, and one could access the window, always a good thing

  32. @B the old bathroom just needed a good scrubbing and streamlining.

  33. The most shocking part of this story to me - a New Yorker - they're getting $108,000 per year - just from renting out ONE apartment. Even if I cloned myself, and we each had three full time jobs, we still wouldn't have been able to rent that apartment.

  34. @anae Yes, incomes vary. But overall, it is a positive thing that someone can afford a $108,000 a year apartment. Think of all the people who have been paid, are, getting paid, and will be paid in the future for their goods and services as the Sussmans spend that money.

  35. @anae I don't mind if someone worked harder or even got luckier than me in life. There are certain jobs that pay more and I don't have one--too bad for me (and you, I guess). The real problem is inheritance. If you believe, as I do, that you ought to pay for what you get, inheritance is plainly immoral, inefficient, and unamerican. Considering that we don't even provide equal primary education to all kids (which is the single greatest thing that creates opportunity for success in life, besides your parents), I think we ought to tax inherited wealth (beyond a family house, maybe) at 90+ percent, and use that to fund truly equal education for all kids--rural, suburban, and urban. Make the rich kids work as hard as the poor kids sounds like a recipe for everyone to do their best and we and they will get amazing results. PS There are cheaper places to live that are still amazing. I had to move from my hometown to afford something. That is the history of humankind. It's ok.

  36. Poorer kids don’t get a worse education because of insufficient funding. Look at Newark, which was recently spending just about the most money per pupil in the country. It didn’t help. Students get a poor education primarily because of culture. Where you come from and what happens at home matters a great deal. When majority minority public charters are picky about their students and boast high success rates, who do you think they’re picking? Kids from good families who are able to sit and learn. It’s not all about the Benjamins, I only wish it were so simple.

  37. This isn't "real estate" it's "journalism." Thanks/

  38. @Harvey Liszt From me too. As someone who hasn't paid for a NYT subscription, I'm very frugal with what I read online. This is my first article in weeks, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It comes at an opportune time: my husband and I (aged 62 and 71) are renovating an apartment that we recently bought, hoping to live and die in it. The article broadened my thinking.

  39. @B. Rosenberg You better read ALL the comments you’ll learn more from that than the article itself. Please make sure you spend a good deal of time designing an efficient bathroom to make life easy when it comes to bathing...

  40. ‘In the bathrooms, .. in the one on the second floor, they reglazed the claw-foot tub, moving it beneath a window ...’ Based on their picture, how do they access the window to open, close, clean it, or clean the floor - climb over the tub?

  41. @louise Not to mention moving all the plumbing! That must have cost a pretty penny. Same with moving gas lines in the kitchen to relocate the appliances. Most people could not begin to afford such renovations.

  42. @louise I have lived with a similar arrangement.... yes one stands in the tub to do the window, hands and knees with a long broom/mop.....how often do you open & close the window....not very often. It's not that difficult.

  43. This is an awkward and inelegant solution - unprofessional. Having a bathroom window gives you the luxury of opening and closing it. What if they want to close the curtains?

  44. In the new bathroom, I see little in the way of helpful railings. One now risks falling into a glass window. The overhead "rain" shower is problematic if you suddenly need to move out of the stream due to temperature change. The angled wall mounted shower heads are safer.

  45. @David That bathroom shown is the one in the rental apartment upstairs. I would have liked more photos of the modifications they made in the garden level apartment.

  46. You can install a thermostatic valve which eliminates temperature variations and ensures you have the water temperature you want when you turn on the tap. They cost a few hundred dollars. I put one in my bathroom when I removed it 10 years ago exactly for aging in place reasons. My bathroom is too small to accommodate a wheelchair, but there’s a lot you can do to make things better.

  47. @David I think the new bathroom is in the renter's unit.

  48. Where is the Basement? The story states that to gain room in the downstairs kitchen (the one the Sussman's will use) that he washer/dryer were moved to the "basement." If the washer/dryer is in a space below the ground-floor apartment, how will the Sussman's be able to use it once Mrs. Sussman loses some of her mobility? If it is on the same level, I would have thought that what to do with that space would have been an important design decision and discussed.

  49. @Paul Fox I had the same thought- In the house in Park Slope that I grew up in- the basement- we called it the cellar- was a dark windowless space down a long flight of stairs. As a caregiver a washer dryer is a daily necessity and it is sometimes not feasible to leave your patient alone on another floor.

  50. @Jeanne DePasquale Perez you are so right! Even if you are not a State licensed, experienced Caregiver, you know that leaving someone alone even for a few minutes can result in an accident. Laundry is an everyday chore, the machines must be accessible just like the stove!

  51. @Paul Fox I suspect they have "help" in to do the laundry and much else. Interesting that the Times rarely mentions such things.

  52. Congrats to all, the Sussman's, the neighbors, the architect Daniel Kaplan and Matthew Williams, the photographer. The spaces are gorgeous as are the photos. Great that care was taken to communicate with the neighbors. And all best wishes for the Sussman's to stay in their home for the long term. Old age, as the saying goes, is not for sissies. Ties with home, family, neighborhoods, all kinds of familiar, eases what can be a very bumpy path.Hope the family is able to gather for many happy occasions in these very beautiful spaces. The indigo cabinets are over the top fabulous!!

  53. I'm sorry, but as a disabled individual who has remodeled his home in such a manner so that he can truly "age in place", I don't see that at all occurring in this residence. What instead I see is an aging couple that has tastefully modernized and renovated their living quarters. The title of this article is misleading. Again, I see a beautiful transformation here, but this is anything but an example of "aging in place". If that type of renovation had truly been done, then this article would have focused on changes to be made necessitated by aging and mobility. I see little of that here. Yes, there is less clutter in the nicely staged photographs, but I still see a space fraught with difficulties for anyone being slow down or hampered in the least by age. How about doing an article that truly focuses on this?

  54. @R Wilson PS – Yes, I acknowledge that they moved from living in three stories down to a single first level, so that stairs wouldn't be an issue, but what I see here of their new residential area is a home that nobody with any serious disability could get around in and function without help from someone else.

  55. @R Wilson The bench under the window in the kitchen is so low to the ground. It almost looks like something one might rest their foot on to tie their shoe, but it would be mighty difficult to lower an aging body or stand up without assistance.

  56. @R Wilson EXACTLY!!! I can tell you that my mother can no longer go up & down to do laundry & that having a stack washer/dryer right in the kitchen like they do in Europe is the way to go. Also, bathroom doors have to be made wider so you can enter with a walker or wheelchair & don’t think it won’t happen, some folks don’t go for knee replacement till it’s too late. The “Golden years” are not really all that golden...you find out when you get there...

  57. This is a worthwhile article, not so much about a lack of mobility of Mr Sussman because it does not appear any special ADA type features ADA were incorporated to the garden apartment. It is a case of how a couple reversed their financial fortune and found a way to stay too. A classic have one’s cake and eat it. They simply improved the living spaces up and down and switched places. And had the good fortune to be able to live elsewhere during the inside work. Later, when they pass, the estate will still have a duplex for rental. Upstairs pulling $10,000 per month and the downstairs pulling another $3000. That makes the brownstone worth a cool $2,000,000 if not more I reckon. The kids will be set in inheritance paying no tax on the transfer.

  58. @Suburban Cowboy $2,000,000???? That's a bargain! If this brownstone were put on the market tomorrow, the asking price would be between $3,500,000 (and that's the LOW side) and $4,100,000!!!

  59. I don’t understand huge book collections. That’s what the library is for, save for a very few that one might reread or use as reference. Think of the space one could use! Also, it would be helpful to see how one actually gets into this garden level apartment. I do not see a sidewalk that leads to a door in the photos. What about the front side?

  60. I understand "huge book collections." They have been the hallmark of civilized people since books began. Admittedly, some types collect books just for show and in the old days didn't even bother to cut the pages. And nowadays some people prefer to read on their iPads. Easier on the eyes, in many ways. But thank goodness your "not understanding" is of no importance to those of us who do.

  61. @Laura, @B. Part of "downsizing" from a large house to a one level condo was going through our book collections and making difficult decisions. While we still have accessible space for several bookcases (displaying books to show we are still civilized people!), our aging muscles and changing eye sight have made technological enhancements to the physical reading of books necessary and truthfully, added pleasure to our reading by eliminating pain from holding large books and eye strain from the small print of older books. I am grateful for technological enhancements and make no apology for smaller book collections I can actually read. I did wonder about placing the laundry in the "basement". And I--like others who commented---I would have loved more pictures of this interesting renovation. Thanks again NYT for this feature.

  62. @B. -An iPad can contain a huge book collection -as many books as small public library, actually. It's not the form of the book that matters; it's the knowledge that it contains which is the "hallmark of civilized people.'

  63. It's a relief seeing how much respect was given to the beautiful old crown molding and millwork. So many of these before and afters reduce a space to soulless modernism. This is a smart update that preserves all the existing charm. Very nicely done.

  64. Totally satisfying article (and I’m in my early 50s living in the burbs of Jersey). I only wish, and this is true of all Times’ pieces that thoroughly explain a property and its renovations from many angles (including the neighbor’s concerns (kuddos!)), that there had been even more photos!

  65. The problem with this renovation is that it doesn’t take into account the real issues of the elderly. I looked at the pics., quickly but I didn’t notice the absolutely necessary walk-in shower which makes bathing not just easier on the aging individual but the Caregiver who will be assisting. Also, many will end up in a wheelchair & you need to have a handicap ramp to get into the home. Visit an assisted living facility before making renovations & take notes & be honest with yourself about your health & what REALLY is the best option for later in life comfortable living! PS, the IKEA kitchen was much nicer, those square little tiles would make me nuts to have to look at every day.

  66. @S. Matt You need to read more carefully. The bathroom shown in a picture is for the rental unit, not the older owners of the home. The article clearly states that the architect designed a bathroom for the owners that can fit the husband's walker and it has a teak bench so that he can sit while using the shower. As for a handicap ramp to get into the home, the story did not address this but I assume since the owners will be living on the "garden" level, they will be coming into a street level door - not that imposing set of stairs that lead to the three-story rental apartment above.

  67. @S. Matt Many of the pictures are of the upstairs triplex and not of their own ground level unit.

  68. ADA guidelines for the elderly and disabled should be followed when renovating to age in place. The bathroom shown in the pictures is definitely NOT accessible; the washer & dryer in the basement makes no sense for the elderly or disabled either. Doorways need to be accessible — Wheelchair ramps may be a necessity also. Decor should allow for accessibility but in order to avoid a depressing environment should not be sterile or hospital-looking — many elderly people spend a lot of time indoors and decor should be cheerful, colorful and stimulating.

  69. @Jim I think the headline was deceptively simple; this is in no way renovated in a manner that would allow long-term living with a progressive decline in mobility and independence. And it doesn't sound as if that was the plan either. Luckily, this couple and their sons clearly have ample resources to find another location should the husband live long enough to require more access, or should the wife. With CHF, the husband is unlikely to be doing laundry and they can afford whatever level of personal care needed. I am CAPS certified to do aging-in-place assessments and consultations, and sometimes the goals aren't full access. They are access under certain circumstances. When it is your home, you get to choose.

  70. @Jim The bathroom is not their bathroom. It is in the triplex ("second-floor bathroom").

  71. The bathroom shown is for the upstairs rental.

  72. While a lovely home, this article speaks to individuals with a great deal of disposable income and, in all kindness, relatively minor health issues. My husband and I are 50 and 52, live in the Bay Area, and have nowhere near this income. My spouse has Muscular Dystrophy and is nearly quadriplegic. He uses a power chair. I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. We spent 25k just making our 1000 square foot home nominally accessible; it cost 385k ten years ago. We continue modifying as finances permit. I do not wish to sound harsh or dismissive of this couple's very real needs. But few of us have rental properties to draw on or large chunks of money to spend on renovations. Renovating to age in place is a deeply personal, often horribly expensive project. One size does not fit all: the tub alone is laughably wrong for a wheelchair user. The entire house would be. That said, homes are personal places: one size does not fit all. This house has to work for the couple featured, not a group of irate commenters--myself included.

  73. @Diane Leach You are among those who don't get that the tub is in the upstairs apartment for the renters. Their 'garden apartment,' which they formerly rented out, is what they have moved into. With the addition, it is now about 1000 SF. These are folks with means, but not unlimited means--they sold a property to finance the renovation. This couple bought a rundown house forty years ago, raised a family, and had a good life together. Park Slope is now super expensive. They'd like to stay but need to downsize. What they have done is effective for them and improves the property--especially that horrible rear entrance.

  74. @Diane Leach Read the article again. The tub depicted is in the 2nd story rental unit, thus not intended for a wheelchair user.

  75. @Diane Leach Please correct me if I am wrong, the photo of the re-glazed claw foot tub was in the renovated bathroom upstairs. The article went into detail about the walker accessible shower in their apartment. I have mixed feelings about the hyperlink embedded in the article. On one hand it was nice to see photos of the upstairs unit. On the other hand, it exposed their address which may compromise their safety imho. Overall, lovely renovation.

  76. In the mid-80s I lived in an apartment in Park Slope with a couple who are now slightly older than the Sussman's. I just did a Google search and they still own and live in the brownstone! Thank you NY Times for bringing back some great memories. As my former roommate and I say, we lived in Park Slope before Park Slope became Park Slope.

  77. Park Slope was always Park Slope. Whom do you think architects built those town houses for? Especially on Garfield Place, or Carroll Street, or Third Street? That detailed woodwork, those mantels, the intricate parquet, were not had for cheap. Even when I was a child in the 1950s, my family, who were all in Windsor Terrace (and some still are), called Park Slope Brooklyn's Gold Coast. In the 1860s, the gentry of Brooklyn's Gold Coast sent their daughters by chauffeur-driven buggies to Packer, down on Joralemon Street, to get something better than just a young lady's education. (Crown Heights and Fort Greene, too -- . Sometimes they buggy-pooled to school.) Park Slope suffered a blow from the airplane crash in 1960 (I saw the wreckage) and then like much of Brooklyn slipped badly in the late 1960s when crime drove lots of people out.

  78. @B. Actually the first "blow" to park slope was the consolidation into Greater NY in 1898. The second was the Great Depression, when many brownstone owners added retail rentals to the ground floors. Then after that the 1970s happened. Park Slope was developed when horsecars could reach the area and allow people to commute to downtown and to manhattan from there. (The more well-to-do always want to move away from the "riffraff" and commerce.) The original "gold coast" of Brooklyn was Clinton Hill which still has many of the mansions and Brooklyn Heights which was developed by Hezekiah Pierrepont, whose family owned much of the land.

  79. @B. We lived on 4th street between 8th Ave. and Prospect Park in the fifties. We lived in an apartment on the apartment side, not the brownstone side of the street. My dad had a HS diploma and an ordinary job. My mom did not work. All the apartments were filled with families like mine. The brownstones across the street were where the 'rich' people lived. Most of them were already looking like dumps. The really rich people they were built for must have already moved somewhere else when they saw immigrant 'riffraff' like us move in. I don't know where this 'Gold Coast' was that you are talking about. It was not there in the fifties.

  80. This article just fills me with anxiety. 90% of Americans make less than this couple will make in rent every year and they will need every penny of it to stay in Brooklyn. My husband and I are not to this stage yet but I can feel the panic in my stomach when I consider what an enormous sum of ready money we are going to need if we are to spend our final years living together in even the most modest of circumstances. With each passing year, our expenses mount and our income inches forward. We have a rental property but will be able to afford to renovate it? Will we even be able to afford to keep it? When I read this article, the fear crowds out everything else. I know that may not be typical of the average NYT reader but that's what's on my mind.

  81. @Stephanie And if the Republicans get their way, your Social Security check will go down instead of the pittance of an annual increase we now get and your Medicare will be privatized. On the upside (sic), the Medicare thing may shorten your lives, so you won't need as much money as you thought to age gracefully. :/

  82. But you do not need to renovate to the level the Sussmans did. If you have a downstairs powder room, take some space from the adjoining room and put in a stall shower. Make your dining room a bedroom. It doesn't have to be exquisite.

  83. @Stephanie I felt as you do, which pushed me into making the most important decision I'd made in decades: to leave NY. It was a big deal for both of us. We moved in October, 2017 and found a rental that was 10x better than our NY rental, and it is one-third the price! After 2 years of looking around and soul-searching, I found what is as close to perfect as possible for aging in place. It's a one-level condo. No one on top of us, no one beneath us, 1,320 sq. feet, 2 full baths, one with a walk-in shower, no basement, 2-car attached (heated!) garage, laundry room in the condo, a large porch and a large patio off sliding-glass doors. Price tag = $118,500, homeowners' fee of $150/month, taxes $1,600/year. If we'd stayed in NY we would be living in a small (and probably depressing) affordable housing unit. Quality of life here is fabulous. It was a wrenching decision, but I needed to make it while I could. Despite the fact that I wish I could visit more often, I am at peace with a choice that has made the prospect of aging far less scary than when we were in NY. I didn't want to live in a continual state of agitation about the future and finances. We have all the possessions we could ever want, our needs are simple, and we have enough disposable income to enjoy our 'golden years'. Think about it. You may realize that remaining in NY is the one thing holding you back from living a much happier (and perhaps longer) life.

  84. Hmm, so this truly isn't a complete aging in place renovated home. It looks vibrant with more open space showing off beautiful lines; it seems to be ideal for the Sussmans' current needs. An elevator chair is an easy fix to the basement apt., if needed. Likely the architect may have walked a tightrope of being respectful with a couple who knew they needed help, but who also weren't ready to look at nursing-home safety designs 24/7. Everyone hopes that they will reach 90 and still get around, and why not try by living in style? Attitude definitely helps. Bottom line -- they can always move. I say, job well done.

  85. @Elizabeth An elevator chair is an enormous expense and you do have to have the permits. The elevator chair and staircase may actually decrease the value of the house.

  86. Norman reminds me of my father, who died (in their home) after a long decline due to, among other ailments, congestive heart failure. My father managed to make it to 86 1/2. My mother, like Anita, is much younger and in better health than her husband. My parents did sell their hillside Los Angeles house (with many steps) and moved into an elevator apartment building when my father began having serious mobility issues, in his late 70s. I think this very ambitious and expensive renovation was premised on some "only in NYC" factors, such as the ability to legally rent part of your home for far more than most people pay for their mortgage. Renting a room or a basement or garage in a nice single family house in Los Angeles, by contrast, would generate a relative pittance. Some of the comments fault the Sussmans for not making their home fully accessible, but I think Anita wanted a home that seemed welcoming and elegant and homelike, and anticipates being able to manage in her unit (perhaps with some paid part-time care) for many years after Norman is gone.

  87. @Matt Green - "Renting a room or a basement or garage in a nice single family house in Los Angeles, by contrast, " Not an apt comparison to renting out a 2,200 square foot tripliex!

  88. Do they have to get down on the floor to access their books? Not very practical for an elderly couple.

  89. Nice renovation, I love the bookshelf bench. These are the kind of people that are in danger of being displaced if property taxes are increased to reflect market value when they can't pass these increased costs on to their tenants.

  90. Not sure what this renovation has to do with aging-in-place. The claw foot tub is beautiful but a walk-in shower is what’s needed. And how do they negotiate the stairs? Brownstone living is vertical in nature. My aging aunt and uncle are struggling to remain in their beloved Brownstone. I had hoped this article would present some solutions but alas, it’s just another renovation story.

  91. @MK McC Reread the article. The bathtub is in their upstairs rental unit - they do have a walk-in shower with a bench. They moved to a newly expanded ground floor so they are no longer navigating the stairs other than a few entry stairs. I don’t think it was meant for disabled people, rather older people who can still get around but don’t want to live in a space where they have to constantly go up and down stairs.

  92. It seems like the front stairs are pretty steep. not sure if they have direct access to back yard level from outside? With the husband using a walker it is not prudent to remain in housing requiring many steps. Like others mentioned, a doorman elevator building might have been a better option.

  93. @kke The garden apartment access is behind the iron railing to the left of the "stoop".It is a couple of steps down and as mentioned in the article the contractor made the steps an easier grade to navigate. II is still not wheelchair accessible.

  94. As a former Park Slope brownstone owner who is now "aging in place" somewhere else, I don't understand some of the design decisions this couple made. The stairs could be a problem, obviously, and putting the laundry facility in the basement will be regrettable for them -- unless they have a housekeeper taking care of matters. But that kind of defeats the idea of independence while aging. As to the ritz-ifying of the upper floors for a wealthy renter: well, that just made me sad.... the Park Slope I remember fondly was middle-class and progressive. Wealthy renters have a surplus of choices in NYC now. Middle class and low income folks don't. The owners could have installed two less-luxurious apartments and still had nice income. Why pander to the rich? Our neighborhoods are hurting.....

  95. @CGP - what makes you think the new renters are so rich? They’re laying 9K per month in rent but, as many NYers, may be severely rent burdened, bringing home say 20K per month. That would put their income at around $240K per year after taxes, so around $350K before. For a family of 4 or 5 (renting a 4 bedroom apt), that’s middle class for NYC, including Park Slope. Sorry to say it, but that’s the truth.

  96. @ED DOC The reality is $250K a year IS rich, even in New York. Most people just don't want to admit it to themselves, nor others.

  97. @ED DOC Area Median Income NYC, 2019: $96,100 Middle Income: 120%-165% of AMI @9,000/month, rent is $108,000 for 1st year. People paying that much rent could certainly be rent burdened, but they aren't going to be middle class, however much it might feel that way.

  98. Not really a good decision. They could have saved a lot of time and effort by skipping the construction project entirely and just rented out both units of their house, then leased a 2-3 bedroom apartment close by in Park Slope in a full service doorman building. Without a bit of construction their income from rents ($8000 per month) would have covered a pretty fine rental unit, suitable for an older couple in declining health.

  99. @Butter Worth See the comments of @B. above. Aging in place—and holding onto the familiarity of neighborhood— is worth any price. I understand that now, after having been a (major) part of my mom's in-home hospice care. She'd lived there 50 years. It was a good goodbye.

  100. A friend fell down the stairs going to her basement to do laundry. She was there for some time until someone heard her cries. Thank goodness nothing more than a cut that required stitches. Get one of those machines that looks like a washer but in fact both washes and dries and install it in the kitchen. Too many basement falls for the elderly often in older buildings with steeper stairs.

  101. @vickie : IMHO, the best and most affordable solution is the combo stacked washer dryer unit. They are small enough to fit in many good-sized closets (though they will need plumbing!) -- there is a dryer on top and a washer on the bottom. They are a bit less than full size, but enough for most people. They can be had as one attacked unit OR a separate washer and dryer that can be "stacked". The ones that have one unit that washes & dries…take forever to dry the clothes. The stackable units are much better. I agree about the basement stairs. My biggest concern for retirement is getting upstairs laundry!

  102. Seems like a very elegant solution for those with means. Based on some of the comments - by people not familiar with Brownstones - including a floor plan would have been helpful for readers to distinguish between the ground level owners unit and the fancy rental upstairs.

  103. I liked the "old" or "before" if you will allow, as it was darling and filled with homespun charm. The "new" rendition seems sterile and empty. But I'm a Southerner and we don't consider it just right until after a couple hundred years.

  104. @jaxcat "Sterile and empty" is MUCH easier to maintain than a house "filled with homespun charm" when your ageing body refuses to cooperate.

  105. ok yeah you guys might not like their decisions but the key words here are THEIR DECISIONS. keep ur opinions to yourself. let them spend their money. it’s super pretty. appreciate that instead.

  106. @hazel v Ha! Well, then don't do a big spread in the Sunday times with photos galore if they don't want feed back.

  107. @hazel v : OK, then don't put it in a major newspaper and online, with photos -- do it privately, and nobody will ever comment on it. I do NOT like this bare bones aesthetic, with cold Swedish style stuff or everything painted gray and white. I hate it. I find it depressing.

  108. Whoops! Forgot earlier so also thanks to Ronda Kaysen and NYT.

  109. Laundry is now in the basement? I see more renovations in the future.

  110. This was NOT an "aging in place" article! Where are hand rails on the tub for example? Or the hospital bed for Mr. Sussman? (Hospital beds are ugly but wonderful in helping to take care of someone very infirm or bedridden). I don't think Mrs Sussman understood what was really needed and Mr Kaplan didn't either, apparently.

  111. The tub is for the up stairs apartment if I am reading correctly.

  112. @RLiss The tub is in the new rental. "So Mr. Kaplan designed the rooms with low thresholds, and installed handrails in the bathrooms and support structures in the walls, making it easy to add more handrails later on. And in the new bathroom, he designed a shower wide enough to accommodate a walker, with a built-in bench of reclaimed teak where Mr. Sussman can sit while he bathes." They don't show pix of the bedroom so you don't know what they have in there.

  113. I like all of the "before" pictures better. And where is the sense of putting books so near the floor, if the readers are elderly?

  114. What we learned: With enough money you can do anything. But there are a few good ideas here that are useful for the rest of us.

  115. Excellent article about what we all eventually encounter. The layout done by The Times especially well done. A lot of legwork by the staff well represented and easy to follow. One takeaway is don’t change boats midstream it’ll cost you!

  116. I’m wondering if they had any “ up to code” electrical, plumbing, etc issues. My daughter recently purchased a a place built in the 70’s and she’s facing those issues at great cost.

  117. @Dave Avila The question is, were the codes in the 1970s where ever your daughter's dwelling might be, may have been very deficient, and the newer codes (the Uniform Building Codes as adopted by each municipality in each state or province (world wide)) correct the deficiencies of the past. You have to think, the codes will make the dwelling safer and have a longer life.

  118. @Dave Avila, I'm sure they did, replacing the old 100 amp service and wiring.

  119. If stairs are an issue ,I am confused as to why you would move the washer / dryer from the living floor to the basement. This seems to defeat one of your major concerns , steps .

  120. That struck me as well. But if they can afford this renovation, I dare say they can afford a cleaning person who can do the laundry. Or they can have a laundry service pick up & drop off.

  121. The washer and dryer that we’re moved to the 3rd floor are in the upstairs rental unit.

  122. Little discussion of the stairs involved. I see two tall steps to the garden/entrance, let alone that imposing stoop. Putting laundry in the basement makes it inaccessible—maybe they have a housekeeper?

  123. @Jennifer I see no steps into the garden entrance, and the front stoop is not the front entrance to their apartment.

  124. People in NYC may also be choosing to 'age in place' because if you've held the house for decades you can't roll over the gains and will pay tax and fees on anything above a $500k gain. You could face losing up to 30% of the sales price to the tax man. This makes it hard to downsize to somewhere else in the neighborhood as doorman buildings are not exactly cheap! If you keep it until you die your heirs get it tax free.

  125. Aging in place is healthier -- and better emotionally; moving to a new home, which never really becomes home, can be terribly disorienting for an older person. I hope to be carried out of my old 1850s house feet first. Spouse will inherit, obviously -- and whatever anyone (or any charity) gets after that is gravy. Apres moi, and apres the spouse, it's no longer my business.

  126. @Hello I have to agree (alas!) - it's very easy to get trapped as a single or couple in a house that once sheltered an extended family, especially since smaller houses in the suburbs on decent sized plots have all been McMansioned out to the limits thereof. One thing you didn't mention - should one succeed in actually finding a smaller, cheaper alternative with something left over after taxes and brokerage fees, the remainder will be converted into cash, and for the risk-averse elderly, that asset depreciates while real estate may down (cf. 2008) but generally recovers. So if one can afford to stay in current digs as is, the answer may be to close some doors and buy a Roomba.

  127. @Hello The expenses of major renovations can be a credit against capital gains. Also, the beneficiaries of the Sussmans' estate will inherit at current value, not the basis cost. (Unless Trump further screws up the tax law for non-1% Americans.)

  128. WOW! That is beautiful. One question. The tub. As we age getting in and out of a tub can be hard, did they ever consider a large walk in shower?

  129. @Beth Grant-DeRoos That tub is in the upstairs rental unit. The article mentioned that their new garden level apartment has a wide shower that can accommodate a walker.

  130. @Beth Grant-DeRoos the tub is in upstairs rental.

  131. @Beth Grant-DeRoos That is a beautiful tub (and the penny tile, especially). I've seen these free-standing tubs in many renos, and can't imagine how hard it would be to clean behind and under it. Add a pet, and you're doomed to filth. Also, I've had a bottom-freezer frig and it's the most wonderful thing. I'm 65, and I love the mix of original and modern design. In no time, the Sussmans will have warmed it up with their personal things.

  132. Before: Character After: Generic I wonder : Did the couple only have concerns about aging, or had their aesthetic changed as well?

  133. @citygirl I'm sure they considered who might inherit their house when they pass, and what the resale value would be! But people's aesthetic change over time too. I love emptier clean spaces much more now than when I was younger.

  134. I am happy for the Sussmans, that they can stay in their home. When you have lived in a place for 40 years, it is kind of in your blood. It's not just the house, really, it's the view of the sky, the yard, birds on bushes, street views, and neighbors... Some commenters liked the pre-renovation aesthetic more, maybe I do too, but young people crave the clean and fresh more minimalist look. Thankfully, the important "bones" of the house, the woodwork and so on, remain. I would have kept the old bathroom tiles myself, but....the new tenants will probably love this place to pieces. And that's what the Sussman's want.

  135. Tile is great to look at but difficult to maintain, especially with renters and a sloppy bathtub. Think luxury vinyl planks or other material that’s water resistant, easy to clean, not to mention much cheaper to install. And pretty.

  136. All current design - that minimalist look - feels so generic and computer-generated. I hope there's a subsequent moment coming soon in which design starts looking less Ikea-ish again, just the for sake of interest (and to justify hiring/paying designing professionals).

  137. @ABC All that classic design with its intricate details and lovely wood requires more energy to clean and maintain than a contemporary “Ikea” appearance. Eelaborate flourishes were fine when live-in help was a signifier of social acceptance – but today, nobody wants servants bustling around the house and getting in the way. We have better things to do and think about than constantly cleaning to keep ahead of the clutter.

  138. As others noted, the renovation regretfully leans to the minimalist design so popular in the city. The upstairs bath lost charm when the tub obscured the window and it's wood lovely features. Not to mention, access to it. For middle aged adults and older, a kitchen without a wall oven is not only uncomfortable but hazardous. In a major, costly kitchen renovation, I would sacrifice another amenity or design element to accommodate a wall oven. You'll never regret it.

  139. @ga , I can only guess as to why those changes were made to the upstairs bathroom. Brownstones, like the one depicted tend to be very narrow. Perhaps the new layout allows for more space around the vanity and the toilet. From the post-renovation photo it looks like the room has been narrowed by adding a new wall on the right and the ceiling dropped in order to hide the plumbing. These brownstones are narrow rowhouses (usually under 20' wide), with fire retarding brick walls between the adjoining buildings. One side of each floor would be taken up with the staircase and hallway. This often makes creating recessed cabinets, fixtures, ovens, etc., difficult if not impossible.

  140. I have been age proofing our house since we moved in 8 years ago. Little things at first, like a sink in the basement, along with a lot of storage to keep the rest of the house uncluttered. But we recently decided to stay I. the house, instead of downsizing, and we have stepped up the process. we have many wifi controllable items which include scheduling, a stair lift from the basement too bring up groceries, a chairlift to the second floor, a bathroom renovation that added many age/handicap friendly features, appliance insurance so I don't have to keep fixing everything, all new decking, all new landscaping and people to maintain it. I will try to continue to fix the electronics, but I am slowly admitting to not being able to do any heavy lifting. It's a hard thing for me to do, but waiting any longer would have been a big mistake. Think ahead.

  141. Interesting; most folks do their last reno (and buy their last new car) when they retire or just before. As a result, when they die or move to assisted living the place is usually in dire need of updating and repair. This seems to be changing and the real estate people are marketing “single-level living potential,” which usually means setting up a bed in the formal dining room. You can spot the octogenarians in my neighborhood by looking for the big expensive houses with 20 or 30-year old cars in the driveway.

  142. We plan to remain on our farm as long as possible, so I started to assist us in doing so starting with the shower. We added rails and a bench to our glassed-door shower. I replaced the 2x8 basement stairs with real treads, covered by traction strips. We already had a ramp from my mother-in-law's days. Next addition will be rails in the toilet and a laundry chute to the basement and a lift back upstairs. All our living can be handled on one floor. Start now folks. I'm 66 and still working.

  143. @Ryan Bingham “Start now folks.” My husband and I bought our 120 yr old farmhouse 30 years ago, when we had the strength and agility to do most of the renovations ourselves. Today, we're coping with aging bodies that don't handle stairs well and demand grab rails. Our acreage is lovely, but soon we'll need closer access to city amenities or else employ the neighbor kid full-time to do maintenance and upkeep. Ageing ain't for sissies and it arrives sooner than any of us expect. Plan NOW for the disabilities of growing old or face the disorienting trauma of forced relocation. Our bodies are tyrants.

  144. @Ryan Bingham : laundry chute is very handy -- I have one original to my 1920s colonial -- but it means the laundry is IN THE BASEMENT. Seniors usually end up unable to go up and down basement stairs, especially while carrying loads of laundry. It is a recipe for a fall -- onto hard concrete! No stairs are going to help with that. Instead, I'd be looking to see where you could put a compact washer/dryer unit in the upstairs -- ideally, near the bedrooms.

  145. @Concerned Citizen I thought of putting a laundry chute in my house, but learned that in my area these are no longer allowed by code. They are considered a fire hazard. And, you are right...getting the laundry downstairs is the easy part. Still have to carry it upstairs.

  146. Reading articles like this, while lovely, is like reading a novel where the people live lives in a different universe from the reader. Spending more on a renovation than the cost of any home I could ever now afford and renting out an apartment for more than twice the average American's yearly income. The original price of the house was affordable by a middle class family in 1980. No more.

  147. The use of space is very good but the modern look makes me crazy-this is a classic building and there is little about the decor that honors that. It makes me crazy when designers do not create an interior that is compatible with the exterior. I don't much like modern anything, so I happily admit to being biased.

  148. @CJ I'm renovating a 200 year old farmhouse and very little of the bright, minimalist interior will "match" the stone exterior. But I don't want to live in a dark enclosed space- that's what the basement wine cellar is for ;)

  149. @CJ I thought Kaplan did a good job of retaining architectural integrity while also responding to the needs and preferences of today's market. I live an a pre-war single family home that still has the original coved ceiling, hard wood floors, plaster walls, and iron bathtub tucked in an alcove in the bathroom. We recently renovated our bathroom using tile reflecting the period the house was built. We're in our 50s though and when we bought the house we thought about aging in place selected the house because it is single story and a stones throw from a major hospital. When I think about future mobility and accessibility needs in our home. Many of the older homes in our gentrifying neighborhood have been largely gutted and remodeled with really open floor plans that could easily accommodate walkers or electric mobility devices. Some home have been razed entirely to make way for newly built modern architecture. Many long-time residents oppose those designs as in compatible with neighborhood character, of course, but times do indeed change.

  150. @CJ : the funny thing is that in 1980....renovation, especially in magazines like Old House Journal, fawned all over these "original brownstones" with their amazing woodwork, fireplaces, high ceilings and pocket doors! Most folks then were trying to do respectful renovations and UNDO the "remuddlings" of the 40s and 50s, which tried to turn these Victorian beauties into modern split levels. Sigh. What's old is new again -- now everyone is apparenlty stripping details and painting everything white! and putting in modern kitchens and baths! I can see the young GenZ homeowners of 2035 bragging about how they "stripped out all that awful IKEA and Pottery Barn stuff!".

  151. I loved this article, and I think that the Times should publish more articles about renovating to age-in-place. Sure everything costs more in NYC, but ordinary people can still apply the principles to projects more within our financial situations. I did a major remodel a few years ago with the goal of making our house more accessible, and I'm very pleased with the changes, but I still have some questions about other things we could do. I'd love to see discussion in the comments about people's experiences with their own remodels. Lots of your readers are aging boomers, so yeah.

  152. People, READ the article! Comment after comment about the tub not being elderly-friendly. It is the upstairs tub, for the tenants. They are living on the ground floor! The have a shower that can accommodate a walker. They also have at-grade egress to the back yard. The 2 steps up are also in the tenants space, to access the deck on top of the new addition below. And they can't help the costs of renovation and market-rate rents in NYC. Sure, other places would cost much less but that has no bearing on this renovation. It sounds like they were smart to buy real estate in both Brooklyn and the Hamptons 40 years ago. Sale of one allowed the renovation of the other.

  153. This story interested me because my husband and I went through something similar. With the help of the VA we were able to stay in our home even as his progressive disabling service related terminal disease progressed. I evaluated the accommodations in this case based on the slowly changing requirements of my husband. The back door and shower would not work for someone in a power or shower wheelchair. I could never push a chair over that door rim. The narrow space in the kitchen probably wouldn’t work either. Doorways are always a question too, 36 inches are needed. There are ADA guidelines, but we discovered they are general and don’t fit all individual needs. I wish this family a happy life in their home. We were very glad to have stayed together in our home during this challenging last act.

  154. Wow, they were fortunate to have the cash to do this. On the other hand, I wish HGTV would put a house like this on a show instead of leading people to think this could all be accomplished for $150K!

  155. @Adrift They financed the reno mostly with the sale of their house in the Hamptons, a smart investment bought decades ago at an even then reasonable price. Also, they'll make tons on the rental (NYC property taxes are incredibly low). Many folks of their generation were able to do this, even folks like my parents, lower middle class for all of my childhood, who lived frugally and saved responsibly and now have 3 modest houses (all 3 together bought for the current price of an NYC or Boston studio). These are their peaceful escapes now (although I agree 3 is too many!) and financial security for the near future.

  156. @Adrift : it's nice to be rich. They not only lucked into a multi-million dollar home for $70,000 (in 1980) but also had "a small house in the Hamptons (!!!) to sell to get cash". This is like an episode of a show called "White People's Problems" or "Humblebragging". I know Park Slope was not this posh in 1980 -- I used to read articles about renovated brownstones there in Old House Journal! -- but for many Americans in the Midwest and Rustbelt, our homes are not worth much more than in 1980 and sometimes LESS. For HGTV and their snooty renovation shows (let alone the NYT)...it's like we don't even exist, because we can't spend $650,000 on a glam renovation. At least the numbers here are realistic: huge gut renovations cost way over $150,000 and take time. The sad part is this probably won't keep the husband here out of Assisted Living, as he is already falling. NOTE: most people would find it heartbreaking to have to move into the basement -- no matter how fancy -- while strangers lived in their bedrooms and kitchens upstairs!

  157. Placing books so close to the floor is a bad move for the elderly. They will have trouble with all that bending. Likewise, those two useless globe light fixtures in the kitchen will not make enough task lighting. Track lighting may not be considered hip right now but at least you can add additional fixtures and direct the light to where it is needed most.

  158. I thought the same thing about the books being placed so low to the ground...

  159. My husband will be 92 in April. We were living in a single story house in the South but skin cancer drove us north. We tried a retirement apartment in a non-profit facility but it cost a fortune and the privacy was nil. We ended up buying a 1909 house in a mid-size city in New Hampshire to share with our daughter and granddaughter. The house had already had some major remodeling with new electrical, new plumbing and a new furnace. The master bath has a walk in shower with a fold down seat. We added a stair chair and grab bars where needed. The front entry is not wheel chair accessible yet but can be made so and in the meantime it requires 4 steps up. We are four blocks from a major non-profit hospital and our daughter is a paramedic while our granddaughter has been trained in CPR and other emergency care and works from home (she has the third floor to herself) so is able to help me with her grandfather if needed. I have a garden again and a large basement where I am setting up my indoor growing space for seed starts and tender plants, and a second floor studio for my photography and painting. Going up and down stairs is a good part of my keeping fit plan! So there are lots of ways to accommodate growing older without going into a care facility. Most are overpriced to boot. At 80, I am almost as active as I have ever been and I look forward to each day!

  160. @Susan in NH How many people have medically trained family members they can live with? Consider yourself extremely lucky, not an example that others can readily follow.

  161. I am a n active 82 year old on a very restricted budget who moved to Portland 7 years ago because it had good public transportation and good medical care. I sold my car and chose a small studio in an elevator building which is across the street from a grocery store, a hospital and four bus routes thinking I was all set. Then I broke my foot and in spite of a lot of help from friends, found myself pretty much housebound for three months. This experience proved that I now need senior housing with more on site help. However, for me - and for many older single women in my situation, there are few if any affordable residences and the ones that are affordable, have 7 year long waiting lists. While I am happy for those who have the money to rearrange their lives and stay in their own homes, there are many of us who do not. Perhaps my story is more indicative of the majority of older women without families to help .. I am still looking for affordable available senior housing.

  162. @dorothy slater I had knee surgery last summer and then broke my foot in November. My laundry facilities are in my basement with steep stairs. I found myself washing enough clothes, towels and sheets in the bathroom or kitchen sink to get by until I recovered. Of course I had to hang them outdoors on a fence-metal fence which could be kept clean. I had to be alert for squirrels though who will undo your clean laundry . It made me realize how few clean outfits one needs -conclusion-rotate no more than 3. I am also now single though I have one child in the area and another came back from Seattle to take me to the hospital for the surgery and stay several days. Then a good friend drove from Dallas for another week. But it is true-someone to help for the acute phase is so important. I could drive after 5 days and limp into the small neighborhood market. I made myself a temp handicap placard. " Please don't tow my car. I had knee surgery last week. Thank you ". And of course there is delivery now. It is a bit easier to be housebound with streaming news, entertainment and being able to order things. But friends or family are the linchpin. More and more as we get older we need each other and we need to make realistic adjustments. I am glad that you have an affordable residence at present and hope that you can continue make it work.

  163. What a beautiful renovation; kudos to Mr. Kaplan and crew. I love the pictures, especially of the upstairs rental. I wish the best to the couple in their new digs. I too live in a city (SF) where housing prices are astronomical as well as labor and renovation costs. Which probably explains why my landlord makes only absolutely necessary repairs to my rental. But I like getting a peek into how others live. I hope the Times includes more such stories that capture all different sorts of experiences.

  164. I wonder what this couple would have said 40 years ago if someone had told them that someday they'd be renting out that house for $9,500/month. (Or even the garden level for $2,500)

  165. Seeing the kitchen in the renovated rental just makes me sad, absolutely no character at all. It looks like a place to operate on food, not to gather together. However, I’m glad they were able to come up with a plan they could afford that is allowing them to age in place.

  166. After my husband and I retired, our children had all moved far away, following jobs and spouses. We moved to a 55 plus community near one of our daughters. It's been wonderful. We are still healthy enough to help with our grandchildren, and when we need help, our children won't have to fly across country to make sure we are okay, as we had to do with our parents. I think sometimes insisting on "aging in place" can be very selfish if it is going to require long journeys for your children to help care for you.

  167. There's so much to dissect about this article, I could write an article about the article! The Sussmans bought their home when property in Brooklyn was relatively affordable and worked hard to fix up the house and rent out part of it. They found ways to stay in a place they loved. Good job. They continue to do so, and that's really nice. However, I think that a lot of the reader comments rightly reflect a concern about just how realistic it is to remain in a place that isn't suitable for a wheelchair or other modifications when mobility is severely limited. I hope that Mrs. Sussman will enjoy years of good health in the home she loves. She sounds like a fine neighbor. All this being said, I understand the comments of those who are hard pressed to find anything affordable in NY. Let's face it: without a stable and continuous source of income exceeding $100k, making a life in NY is difficult. The policies and economy of NYC drive an increasing scarcity of space for average wage earners. As one who never made a lot of money, I understand why some readers would be triggered by the costs of the brownstone renovation. Many of us have never had any net worth to speak of; therefore, reading a story about a $600k+ renovation can be off-putting. I do wish that the Times would feature stories about how people are trying to creatively age in place in more modest homes. Finally, some programs to help assist older homeowners do exist, like the RESTORE program in NYC.

  168. Competitive redecorating has long been a thing among the city's upper middle class (the wealthy gave it up once they had so much it was no longer safe to show it off) and this really is a triumph of the game. Still it is a game. It can only have a small number of prizes at the top— so most people loose it. The rules of the game are written for you and you break them at your peril. It's a very limited type of freedom for a very limited number of individuals. it doesn't create a society — it fills in for it's absence. This is the joy and the burden of property. It's not only who we are, it's all we have left and most of us will never have it. Yes, yes I know. They did everything right. Bravo. But it killed Brooklyn. Drowned it in a sea of home styling that swept away it's working class immigrant soul.

  169. Moved the laundry into the basement??!!

  170. They probably don’t do the laundry themselves ;(

  171. @Elisabeth73 why would that cause a sad face? Laundry is one of the last things I want to do.

  172. Well done.

  173. Nice to have money.

  174. poor quality generic updates with little cohesion or integration with existing features, and clumsy uses of space for a lot of money. thumbs down.

  175. The most important consideration for aging in place renovations is creating a safe, secure and easily accessible bathroom. That should be the priority. Grab bars, wheelchair/walker accessible , "no step" shower with fold down seat, and non slip flooring. You don't want to fall, break a hip and end up in skilled nursing ....

  176. This looks great but they were lucky to have money to be able to complete the renovation. I am curious though who can afford to rent an apartment for $9,000mo? It’s unfortunate that rent is so astronomical in places like Brooklyn and San Francisco.

  177. Every NYT article themed on New York City real estate fills me with anxiety. The divide between those invested in the equity and real estate markets could not be laid more bare. It's the story of rent seekers and those that work to pay them. These are NOT uplifting stories.

  178. There is something to be said for remaining in your long-term home. Of course, I live in the burbs, not the city anymore, but after 36 years, I ain’t going anywhere! I have a ground floor and second floor, and the only accommodation would be a stairlift, if necessary. I co-own a Florida condo with my sister, but we agreed that she would buy my share. I loathe the Florida lifestyle (apologies to Floridians and snowbirds). One of my adult children still lives with me, so that has pros and cons. Mostly pros!

  179. They are very lucky to have been able to afford these changes . In N Y getting the garden level tenant out could also be difficult. Also there were lots of family supports. Mr. Sussman could stay out of the city with family while all of this was happening etc. As an older person living in a 1936 house-if I were doing some age appropriate renovating I would also choose a lot more flat panel cabinets. They are not very pretty to my eye. However the absolute wedding cake of white woodwork in my bathroom is a big cleaning job. Just a little water spritz will not deal with soap scum, cosmetic dust etc. You have to use laborious scraping with a special tool and magic erasers. ( Regularly !) Moving laundry to the basement makes no sense. So many have said it. My laundry is in the basement-very steep old stairs-concrete landing pad at the bottom. I still struggle down there but am trying to plan for a better way. Moving it up would probably cost $50,000. Ditto the point about the lack of a wall oven. I also lack that and it is a problem for older people-bending is harder, spills dangerous. I think that the Sussman's were lucky and I'm glad they get to stay. I doubt, seriously, that it was that cost effective. I do think that for $630,000 the contractor could have fixed those broken flagstones in the front. Shame on the contractor. Now that there is a N Y Times feature people are going to say : " Really, you did not offer to fix that when those nice older people paid you so well?"

  180. The main aspect that qualifies this as a transformation allowing for aging in place is that it is one floor living. There is so much to consider for a future that may include a variety of sensory impairments and mobility challenges, among other possibilities. A kitchen transformation that includes moving the washer and dryer into the basement and installing ceiling high cabinets seems ill-conceived.

  181. @Roberta while I think the general objective is to have as much "one floor"living as possible, there can be trade-offs, in which case, the question is as to the alternatives. You are clearly correct that in the event stairs become an issue for Mrs. Sussman, the basement washer/dryer becomes an issue, as well as high cabinets. At the same time, that might create more usable space for the main floor, including wider areas for moving around--which is a big deal with a wheelchair. As for alternatives, at the point stairs are an issue, the laundry could become a task for a home health aid. Part of the way we kept my parents in their house longer was to have someone come in an do tasks like laundry. We also found that in some cases, aging and disability resource sources will assist in this cost as it beats the cost of funding more expensive "facility care" options. It all really gets back to the point you made that there are a whole host of things to consider. There may not be a perfect solution that meets every need, but there could be options that meet most of the need, and alternatives for the rest.

  182. @Tom Bartel, I agree that sometimes alternatives need to be found. My concern is with the NYT presenting this as an example of transformations to enable "aging in place" or to make the home "accessible" as the slide show touts. Such transformations are more typically made to facilitate long term self-sufficiency. Instead, the shower is described as being made wide enough for a walker, not a wheel chair, and entry to the apartment was enhanced by adding more stairs, not a ramp. If this were an article entitled "How One Couple Downsized and Still Kept Their Brooklyn Brownstone" I would not be so concerned.

  183. My husband and I owned a Manhattan brownstone for 23 years until we were empty nesters, sold it, moved to Brooklyn, and eventually bought a co-op in an art deco building. We never considered living in the garden level of our home as we aged. Although I enjoyed my landlady duties for two full decades, including shoveling our 20 feet of New York City sidewalk, climbing on to the roof to clean out the gutters, and taking the stairs to welcome new tenants to one of our two floor-through rental apartments, eventually my knees and the family dog's hips could no longer use any of the stairs without pain. My orthopedist wanted me to wait ten years before I had replacement surgery and there was little the veterinarian could offer our pooch. Living on one level made sense. Yes, we could have hired people to handle much of my physical labor, but finding someone in the middle of a nightime blizzard to shovel our stoop was not something I wanted to manage. I also knew that I couldn't supervise the work properly if I couldn't check on it readily. Even in a garden level apartment in most NYC townhouses, there are 3 or 4 stairs to navigate with packages or a grocery cart as you walk down to the under-the-stoop door that leads to the garden level. The day we moved to Brooklyn it snowed, and as I was setting up my new home office, I sat down to watch the beautiful thick snow flakes drifting by the window, and was happy to know that I didn't need to grab my shovel.

  184. Kudos to the Sussmans (and those who worked with them)! They now have a lovely, income-producing home in a great neighborhood they are familiar with; no other option would provide these benefits. I have seen too many people go directly from their homes to a nursing facility, only to have a lifetime of assets consumed by their final years in an impersonal, institutional setting.

  185. Very nice article, especially the taking into account of the neighbors. It makes sense to invest in the upstairs apartment since they will get their money back. One thing about these home renovation articles is that I would love to see a renovation from an average low-middle class family and see how they made out with their budget. It would speak to me more.

  186. I wish this level of communication between neighbors and their architects and contractors was the norm, not just for long-time neighbors. When my new rich neighbor (in Park Slope) embarked on extensive renovations, she showed zero courtesy or lines of communication for the seniors who had lived next door for 40 years.

  187. Particularly enjoyable renovation story. Shows how thinking out of the box and making an unexpected major change along the way came about. You don't have to agree with the outcome to appreciate the ideas and benefit from the excellent before and after photos. As an 83 year old widowed librarian / sculptor I moved into a 570 SF apartment and decided to turn all my space over to art projects and books space and no more attempts to store "stuff" or entertain except with perchable places amidst the studio and microwaved and ordered in food for grandkids and family. Totally gone minimalist and fun. The essential great grandma phase of my life. Lovin' it. Should have done it 20 years ago.

  188. I opened this article hoping to see how a couple transformed their space, so they didn't have to leave their home as they aged. Instead, I got a story about updating the upper level to increase the rental value. The renovations are lovely, but it would be really interesting to see how people are thinking creatively about how to stay where they are as they age. Kind of a missed opportunity.

  189. @KWH They put an addition on the 'garden apartment' making it 1000 SF for the two of them. Good size. They used to rent the garden apartment, but now they're living in that and have fixed up the upstairs which will provide good rental income. That's what they did, and it's brilliant. I just wish they had shown photos of the garden apartment bathroom(s.) They changed a half bath into a full, but I assume the apartment already had a full bath. This is unclear.

  190. @KWH Do you not consider a $630,000 renovation a good example of "thinking creatively?" It all makes sense, but like most NYT RE, not particularly relatable.

  191. I agree! I wanted to see more pics of the garden unit, too, and the architect has them on his website, Bowerbird Architects.

  192. Wish there had been pictures of the modified bath/shower area and grab bars. As a person with mobility and propreoception deficits, I can attest to the difficulties of making "functional" look attractive. Disabled people also love good design.

  193. I agree! What's great about this article and the renovation is that it's a family story, a generational/neighborhood story, and a design/construction story! So many baby-boomers are at similar crossroads: as a home-owning generation whose kids have left the nest, many in this age cohort are struggling with similar health issues, estate-planning issues, and day-to-day practical issues. The Sussmans have definitely done a lot right, not just financially, but also in raising good kids who are willing and able to store their parents junk and put up their ol'Dad for a year while Mom handles the project! Both units look fantastic--I found several more pics of the renovated garden apt on Bowerbird Architects' website, under the one below heading.

  194. Such a great "real estate" article--not just an old room/new room account of a project, but really a story about an aging couple figuring out how to stay in their neighborhood, and in their old lives, while downsizing and acknowledging declining mobility. Also, I found more pics of the garden apt on the architect's website! https://www.bowerbirdarchitects.com/one-under

  195. Wonderful story and I love love love the renovations. Also, for those interested, there are more great photos of the project, incl the garden apartment (called 'one below'), on the architect's website, Bowerbird Architects-dot-com.

  196. I’m a faithful reader of the NYT real estate section and I love this story. A great solution to age in place that seems like a win for all. Good details about the ups and downs of the experience. Mr. Kaplan appears to be a caring professional that made the process as smooth as possible. More stories like these!

  197. It is really great this this couple tackled this "in-time" - and what I mean by that is by choice. Many people age and think they have time and put off decision-making until a decision is forced upon them and then no one is really happy. Yes, they are super lucky that they had the financial ability to make choices but they still made them nonetheless and I think that is great.

  198. A technical question, as we are now doing more renovations in our 1906 house that we have lived in for 33 years. My husband and I were looking at the fireplace in both the before and after photos. The before photo shows clearly that it is a marble mantle and surround. In the after photo, is it still bare marble, or has it been painted? The answer may have repercussions in our household!

  199. I do not see any of the changes as increasing "accessibility". The tub is still a problem, very high and a trip hazard, with no safety rails from what I can see. I think the title of the article is misleading, they made it prettier, but accessible? I do not see it nor is it addressed in the writing.

  200. A clawfoot tub ain't for aging in place under any circumstances. You could be 25 and nearly break your neck if you catch your toe getting into one of those. Makes NO sense why they kept that thing; they just simply aren't that charming.

  201. To Susan, You did what I have thought of. Good for you. Enjoy.