One Whidbey family is taking a creative approach to matters of housing and aging.
With help from relatives and community members, long-time island residents Alicia and Robert Berggren have moved into a new manufactured home, customized so they are able to age in place on their own property. The Berggrens are in their mid-70s and both are dealing with health issues.
The 1,400-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom house is on Wilkinson Road, about a mile southeast of Langley. There are ramps at the front and rear, and doorways are designed to accommodate a mobility device. Even the Postal Service has helped by allowing the rural mailbox to be located as close to the house as possible.
“It has been a long journey but very exciting,” said their daughter, Wendy Medlock. “We thought, oh, ‘manufactured home’ means instant house, but we learned it is a process, and everyone is very pleased.”
Another daughter, Stephanie Rayner, works at Sebo’s hardware store in Bayview and helped arrange local services for the project.
“Everybody pitched in,” Medlock said. “We were surprised at the positive responses we got when people heard that Bob and Alicia needed something to make sure they could stay at home on their own property.”
Design and construction included a new concrete slab foundation to which the house is anchored for earthquake protection. The new foundation includes a front porch “prow.”
Medlock said the county permitting process was slow and confusing at times, but everyone in the planning office was cooperative.
“This situation is unusual. We haven’t really heard of anyone taking this approach to aging in place,” said Chasity Smith, director of aging and disabilities resources for Island Senior Resources. “Aging in place means something different to each person, usually finding a way to stay at home or in the community.”
Island Senior Resources offers many services for residents, including help navigating the process, she said.
The Berggrens have lived on Whidbey since 1979, when they moved from Redmond. They have owned the property on Wilkinson Road since 1984. The new house replaces an older building which had to be demolished when the family recognized remodeling would not accomplish their objective.
The Berggren house was manufactured by Palm Harbor Homes of Portland and sold by Homes Direct of Mount Vernon. The builders transported the house on two flatbed trailers from Portland.
The family tore down the old house last November. The new building was delivered in mid-March. The county occupancy permit was effective May 22.