With the increased cost of housing, there has been much more interest in Aging-in-Place. This refers to the capability to live in a current home as one ages, independently and comfortably, regardless of ability level or income. Because needs change as life advances, Future Planning is recommended when building a new home or renovating an existing home will make things much easier for future flexibility.
Here are 4 things that must be considered:
There are two considerations with mobility- one is how to get into the house, second is how easy it is to move around the house.
Stairs can be a problem. If there are too many, it can be tiring, or with a wheelchair, it can be impossible. When designing a home, the lower it is in the ground the better. This makes it much simpler to access the home, especially if a wheelchair ramp is required. When renovating, well-planned landscaping can decrease the effect of a high floor level, which can shorten the length of ramps, and reduce the number of stairs.
Wider hallways and doors allow easy movement.
Ensure that floor coverings are all level to reduce trip hazards.
Entry and Bathroom floors have potential to get wet. Using non-slip tiles in these areas offers sure footing.
Consider a curbless shower, with an integrated seat, and both handheld and overhead shower heads. Designed with a single slope, narrow trench drains, and glass walls these showers can be made fully accessible and resistant to overspray.
Installing extra wood backing materials in bathrooms, especially around toilets and in showers, allows multiple potential attachment locations for grab bars.
Cabinets can be made with working surface pullouts to allow wheelchairs to roll underneath, drawers allow access much easier than shelving, and ensuring that there are well-positioned power outlets is also key.
Light switches can be placed slightly lower than normal to ease operation.
Future Planning considers floor framing provisions to allow easy cutout for an elevator, or for a stair lift, having a wider stairwell and stiffer wall framing will help later on. Also, having appropriate electrical service available can reduce future costs.
Even if this type of planning hasn’t occurred in advance, many mobility products can be incorporated into thoughtful renovation plans…. For example RAM Elevators & Lifts specialize in retrofitting existing homes, with no requirement for an elevator pit or sperate machine room.
The effort required to grip and twist can be painful. Minimizing this can be helped by cabinet hardware that is larger and easy to grab, without protrusions that can snag clothing.
Flush surfaces that reduce the need to lift heavy kitchen tools and appliances.
Lever door handles that can be easily pushed down vs a doorknob that needs to be grabbed and turned.
3. Cognitive Decline
Do you ever get into a room and then wonder why you went there in the first place? With cognitive decline, this often happens with more and more frequency, even to the point where one can forget the room’s function. Often sensory clues can be of great assistance. Allowing for spaces with a different feel and personality can stir the senses. Wall colour themes that are consistent with a room’s use can help, as can floor covering colours and types. Adequate lighting will also make navigation easier.
4. Visual Impairment
Aging can cause our eyes to have a reduced ability to discern light and colour. Planning interiors that are bright, balanced, but pleasing to look at are important. Light levels are also key. Too little or too much light can increase eye strain. Lots of natural light is important, but so is allowing access to easily operable blinds so that brightness can be tempered. Larger windows that are easy to get to is key. Recent developments with artificial lighting is also encouraging. Lights can automatically change in brightness and colour temperature to mimic the exact levels that are outdoors. This not only makes it easier to see within the house, but it also helps by giving the right “feel”. Midday light is brighter and bluer, while sunrise and sundown light is much softer and warmer.
The course of life has ever-changing needs. Useful features and future planning can seamlessly blend into home design making living at home easier and more enjoyable regardless of abilities or age.