Unfortunately with aging comes slower, more difficult movement, and the need for additional support where possible in the home. Our sight and hearing start to deteriorate too. All of these changes to our health require better design where various aspects are done with them in mind. Through my experience designing hospitals, medical offices, and for aging in place residences, I’ve learned so much about designing spaces for those moving into their elder years.
A lot of designing for the older generation is about future-proofing spaces. You don’t know what your health will be like in a few years time, so preparing your home for aging in advance enables you to stay where you are.
But how exactly do you design an aging-in-place home? What should you consider to create a safe place? I’m going to take you through what you need to know and consider in order to create a home ready for aging in place or to accommodate an elder family member who may be moving in with you.
ADA Guidelines in Residential Spaces
The ADA guidelines outline specific requirements for those with disabilities in the US. While you may not be classed as disabled, or currently use a wheelchair, the guidelines cover a wide range of industries and how they should be designed to account for those with disabilities. From employment to public services, there is a section dedicated to accommodations, and I’d highly recommend following these to future-proof your home.
Specifically, there are guidelines for kitchens and bathrooms that account for a wheelchair user’s access to various items. This includes sink height, approach clearances, and distances that should be met.
You should also allow for wider doorways to allow for assisted walking and wheelchair access.
Structural Support to Support the Aging
There are a few structural updates you should consider.
Specific blocking will be required in walls in order to support grab bars. You may not know where you’ll need grab bars in the future, but you can take a good guess based on the ADA guidelines. Shower and toilet grab rails are particularly helpful.
As I mentioned in the previous section, your current doorways may not be wide enough for assisted walking or wheelchair access. It’s worth getting these widened, so you know you can go between rooms comfortably in any eventuality.
Lighting and Electrical in Aging in Place Homes
Electrical switches are often lower than most standard light switches so they can be reached with minimal extension, or when in a seated position. This is largely personal preference, and may be determined by any ailments in the future, but is certainly something you should consider in order to future-proof your home.
I’m a huge advocate for well-lit spaces, and good lighting becomes even more important with homes for the older generation. Lighting levels should have a living level of lighting, and also a brighter setup to help with cleaning or nursing care.
It’s really important to have access to natural light, as this helps to promote a good mood and healing. This is important, especially when working with older generations that may have more limited mobility.
Finishes / Materials Appropriate for Aging In Place
So what about the finishes of the home?
It’s important that the finish used is suitable for those with limited mobility or wheelchair users. I’d recommend looking at very low-profile flooring and flooring transition options while striking a balance with cleanability. You’ll also want to make sure that the flooring is durable and hard-wearing.
In high-traffic areas, I recommend installing wall protection. This could be as simple as vinyl wallpaper, or as complex as a whole system that is designed to withstand impact resistance.
You should also consider using contrasting colors for safety. This comes into play with flooring transitions, steps, areas with extreme heat, or other designations specific to the space. Higher contrast will enhance visibility.
Do you need help creating an aging-in-place home? Contact us today!