Is Your Home Ready for Aging-in-Place?
Age-Friendly Basics for Your Needs Tomorrow
You love your home. Whether you built it or bought it, it has all the things you wanted as far as location, interior layout and a host of amenities that perfectly suit your lifestyle. You see it as your dream “forever” home… where you can gracefully age and enjoy your future retirement years.
However, certain unforeseen shortcomings could preclude your ability to remain in this home in later years and could bring your dream to a disappointing halt.
Here’s why: In the late 1980s, America began realizing there was a growing need for home designs that were both age- and disability-friendly. Around this time, along with the Americans With Disabilities Act, came an awareness for home builders, remodelers and residential owners to begin preparing today to meet the special needs of homes for tomorrow as well.
Known today as Universal Design, this awareness brings together a broad spectrum of ideas and principles designed to produce buildings, products and environments that are accessible to all people, including the elderly and those with disabilities.
By understanding and applying some, or as many as possible, of these Universal Design concepts and principles in your home today, it will help to ensure that you and your loved ones will be able to age-in-place and comfortably remain there well into the future.
Another important point worth noting, a home built, purchased or remodeled with Universal Design in mind is really not apparent at all. It is simply extremely functional, highly considerate and certainly smart. It can also increase future resale appeal and value as well. Here are some of the basics to consider:
Single Level Design and an Open Floor Plan
Stairs become difficult as a person ages, so single level homes are an obvious starting point. Those with open floor plans are also easier for those with walkers or wheelchairs to navigate. They also offer clear lines of sight, making it easier to monitor the well being of elderly occupants.
Easy Access Throughout – Especially in Bathrooms
This includes wider doorways (minimum 36”) and hallways (minimum 48”).
All bathrooms should allow wheelchairs to easily turn 360-degrees (open spaces should be at least 60” x 60”). Walk-in-Tubs are also a smart feature for all ages – especially the elderly. Another important feature for all ages are Anti-Scald Controls.
Slip and Fall Resistance
Falling is a serious concern for all ages – especially the elderly. Homes designed with all generations in mind should include slip-resistant surfaces wherever possible, especially in potentially wet areas. Also, add grab bars in the shower and handrails anywhere else falls might occur. Area rugs should have slip-resistant backing and low, flat edges to prevent tripping.
Easy to Operate Hardware and Accessories
Some of the easiest common sense and logical alternatives begin with using lever door handles instead of doorknobs, which are easier for those with arthritis or other disabilities to operate. All operable items in the home, such as doors, should require no more the 5 lbs. of force to open and/or utilize. Add loop-type pulls on drawers and cabinet doors for an easier grip to open and close.
Multi-Level Counters and Accessories
If you are remodeling your kitchen or bath, or building a new home, remember to include countertops at various heights that will allow everyone of all ages and disabilities to work efficiently and comfortably. This should also include many of today’s custom cabinet amenities, such as pull-out and pull-down shelves.
Age-Friendly Upgrades and Thoughtful Planning
Inside, better lighting and rocker style light switches are a preferable choice for all ages. Remote control blinds are another benefit for the elderly. Outside, provide at least one no-step barrier-free entry to your home. Easy access from the garage to the house is desirable. Low-maintenance exterior surfaces are also a plus, as well as selecting trees and shrubs that are easy to manage.
Overall, Universal Design and smart planning for aging-in-place is simply thinking ahead – and when “put-in-place” – isn’t really noticeable at all. Rather, it is just extremely beneficial… to you and your loved ones of any age… both today and as time goes by.
Here are some additional resources to for aging-in-place design:
The 10 Things to Know About Universal Design – Universal Design
Planning for Retirement House Plans for Seniors – HousePlans
Housing America’s Older Adults Key Facts – JCHS, Harvard