Freedom Homes by Thomas Dostal Developers Offer Independent Living


Article by Cindy Hadish
Photography by Justin Fox

Everett and Kathleen Bennett loved their home of 32 years in Cedar Rapids, but knew the time had come to move.

Kathleen had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and while symptoms have been well controlled with medication, the movement disorder made it increasingly difficult to navigate stairs in their three-level home.

“It was hard to leave,” she said, but the two, who are retired, made the choice to move into a new home designed by Thomas Dostal Developers to maintain accessibility as they aged. “We love it,” Kathleen said of the new house in southwest Cedar Rapids, where they have now lived for more than a year.

Known as “Freedom Homes,” the luxury single-level, zero-step-entry houses offer an option for Baby Boomers looking to downsize, as well as people living with disabilities who need special accommodations to stay in their own home.

Thomas Dostal Developers, based in Cedar Rapids, offers more than 25 years of experience in custom-built homes.

Company owner Randy Dostal noted there are nearly 75 million Baby Boomers in the United States – the generation born after World War II – and more than 52 million Americans live with a disability, but typical homes are not built with accessibility in mind. That changes with Freedom Homes, which are ADA compatible, meeting most goals of being ADA compliant.

“It’s modified for their needs,” Dostal said. “It frees up the owner to live where they want, how they want, for as long as they want.”

According to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every five adults in the United States has a disability. The most common functional disability is a mobility limitation, defined as serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs, which was reported by one in eight adults, followed by disability in thinking and/or memory, independent living, vision and self-care.

Some of Dostal’s perspective came after his own hip surgeries, when he realized the challenges involved in simple tasks that more mobile homeowners take for granted, such as climbing stairs and doing laundry.

“It helped with my understanding,” Dostal said. “You start thinking in a different way.”

He began looking into features that would make living at home easier for people with disabilities. Doors handles in Freedom Homes are levers, which is particularly helpful for homeowners with rheumatoid arthritis or other joint pain who have difficulty gripping a typical-style doorknob. In the bathroom, toilets use swipe technology for “no touch” flushing and designer grab-bars add another level of safety, as well as style.

Bathrooms are built with backer boards to provide solid and safe anchors to attach the grab bars, which can include towel bars and toilet paper dispensers specially designed to serve a dual purpose as grab bars. Zero-step entry showers also help with accessibility, particularly for homeowners who use wheelchairs.

The laundry room features a washer and dryer on custom-made appliance platforms, built to the most suitable height for homeowners with back problems or other health concerns, providing an easier way to do laundry with minimal bending.

Hallways are wide enough to allow a walker or even a wheelchair to be used throughout the home and doorways are 36-inches wide, rather than the typical 26 to 32 inches, to also offer greater accessibility.

The lower-level offers plenty of space for another bedroom, bathroom, storage space and even plumbing stubbed in for a kitchen. Dostal noted that the space allows parents to move in with their adult children or vice-versa, giving either their own space and privacy.

Homes are built on a zero lot line, which reduces the cost. Dostal said affordability is important for seniors who may otherwise need to move into a care center.

“It’s something our society is going to struggle with,” he said, citing the high costs associated with living in a care center. The Freedom Homes range in size from 1,100- to 1,600-square-feet, which provides enough space for seniors hoping to downsize, while maintenance and upkeep are easier in the smaller space.

Kathleen Bennett said the size is perfect. “It’s smaller, but I don’t feel I’m in a cramped space,” she said, comparing the size of the couple’s new home to their old home. “I feel like we have plenty of room.”

She also appreciates the bathroom grab bars and convenience of the door levers. Her favorite features are the zero-step entry and having most living areas on the main floor. In their previous home, she often had to go up and down the stairs to do laundry and other tasks.

“That’s why we thought we needed to move,” she said. “I don’t have endurance like I did before. This is just a matter of steps and I’m there.”

Thomas Dostal Developers (319) 431-3881.

Building Team

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