While the young often relocate for college and then for their careers, it’s different for those approaching retirement or in retirement. An estimated 90 percent of people in that category prefer the option of aging in place. In other words, they see value in staying in their home rather than going off to a nursing home or similar institutional option.
Of course, aging brings certain challenges with it. For example, you may struggle with balance or changes in mobility as time passes. That makes home design for aging adults a critical component for comfortably aging in place.
Curious about what home design elements can make homes for aging in place easier and safer to live in? Keep reading for some key home design tips.
New Build Vs Modification
At its core, home design is primarily about architecture with a secondary focus on interior design elements. This creates certain challenges when considering home design for aging in place.
Ideally, you can start from scratch with a new build at or near your current location. That will let you incorporate all of the essential architectural features you need and want.
The reality for most people is that you will modify your existing home to incorporate some of the design features discussed below. The key thing to remember is that any changes you can make that will simplify your life or remove hazards are a net gain for aging in place.
Something else you should consider in your design decisions is wheelchair accessibility. While you may not need it now, you or a loved one may need it down the road. You’ll end up happy to have that accessibility if you do find yourself using a wheelchair.
There are several ways you can make your home more wheelchair accessible. Let’s explore them below.
One of the more obvious options is wheelchair ramps. While putting a ramp at the main entrance occurs to many people, don’t stop there. You should also put one at a secondary entrance.
If there is ever a fire or other emergency, you’ll want more than one exit that can accommodate a wheelchair.
Look in most kitchens and the counters sit at about 36 inches high. That’s approximately waist height for someone standing at a counter. That’s far less practical for someone who must sit and work at a counter.
Wheelchair-accessible cabinets lower the height of the counter to make it more comfortable to do things like prepare food or wash dishes. Many will employ slide-out storage or work surfaces as well.
Bathroom sinks, much like kitchen cabinets, sit at about waist height. Beyond that, many vanities do double duty as storage space. That cabinet design makes the sink very difficult to access.
Look for vanities designed with wheelchair accessibility in mind. You can install them so the sink is lower and storage is offset.
You can also look for roll-in showers that include support bars.
Your average front door is around three feet wide. That makes it fine for wheelchairs since their average width hovers around 25 inches.
Interior doorways are another matter entirely. Many interior doors are only two feet wide, which makes wheelchair navigation tricky at best. As part of your design, opt for interior door sizes that can accommodate a wheelchair.
Skip the Stairs
One solid tip for how to age in place comfortably is to avoid including stairs in your custom-designed home. A single-story design, such as a ranch house, helps ensure that parts of your home will not become inaccessible over time.
What if you need the extra space and a single-story design won’t work on your property or you’re redesigning an existing home? Consider an alternative to stairs, such as an in-home elevator.
That provides you easy access to the second floor of your home even if mobility becomes more problematic for you later. It also opens up two-floor or even three-floor designs.
Not everyone loves the concept of a smart home, but smart technology can prove a real boon for aging in place. Most smart technologies let you access the devices through a smartphone app, tablet app, or even on your computer. That means greater control without needing to physically interact with the devices themselves.
As an added bonus, the number of smart device options grows every year. Some smart devices currently on the market include:
- Security systems
- Door locks
- Kitchen Appliances
Plus, there are virtual assistant options that you can interact with using voice commands. These let you do things that range from playing music and calling people to controlling your security system and searching for things on the Internet.
The only downside with smart technology is that they require power and, usually, an Internet connection. That can prove an issue during power outages. Although, a generator can help solve that problem in the short term.
While much of what makes your home functional for aging in place happens at the architectural level, There are also a number of interior design choices that can benefit a home design for aging adults.
You can replace carpeting with softer surfaces, such as cork or linoleum, and remove a trip hazard. Indirect lighting can limit the sources of glare in your home, which can also help you avoid falling.
You might consider lever faucets for your sinks. Lever door handles require less dexterity. Rocker light switches are also easier to manage than the standard light switches you see in most homes.
Home Design and Aging in Place
Most aging adults prefer the prospect of aging in place and there’s evidence it’s better for them. Of course, home design for aging in place isn’t top of mind for many people when they buy or design a home.
Good designs for aging in place must take more into consideration, such as wheelchair accessibility, smart home options, and whether to stick with a single-story design.
MJS Designers Group specializes in custom home designs. If you’re thinking of building a home designed around aging in place, contact MJS Designers Group today for more information about our services.