So who really wants to admit to AGING anyway? There are many things that just get better with age- fine wine, art, long-time friends, or a good pair of leather boots. For some reason we tend to embrace the value of age in those cases but when it comes to US actually aging – no way. It’s the same with the current renovation industry’s Aging-in-Place design. Although the premise of this is a fantastic offering- the terminology sometimes turns us off.
Maybe an easier form of design to embrace is Universal design which comprehensively designs for all ages and physical abilities. Although Universal design encompasses all ages, especially if you are purchasing or renovating the home where you plan to retire and enjoy your golden years- there are a few key design aspects to highly consider:
Entry- Are there a lot of steps leading to your main entry or is there a gradual incline or a possible ramp? You will also want to consider if there is a covered entryway or porch which lends protection from the elements during inclement weather. Whether you are recovering from a surgery or a new other with a huge stroller and a gazillion bags to get into the house- easy entry is a bonus.
Master Bath- The main bathroom is a key element for consideration as this will be a necessary area of use. You will want to consider if the existing shower is curbless or can be modified to add safety grab bars and a bench for easy accessibility and mobility. You may want to think about comfort height toilet seats (17 inches vs. 15 inches) and lowered sink counters if there was ever a need for wheel chair use. Bathroom designs are extremely important to our ease of life regardless of age.
Kitchen- Another key area to closely consider is the kitchen- the heart of the home. Having roll-out shelving in pantries and cabinets is a huge help. You may want to update the cabinet hardware to make it easier to grip as well as incorporate soft-close drawers for safety. If you are updating your kitchen, designing it with a built-in over at counter top height and a built-in microwave in lower cabinetry can be a huge help. Families with small children will greatly benefit from the easy grip handles and soft-close drawers- small hands like to explore and slamming drawers can certainly be a safety issue.
General Layout- Single level living is key when you can’t get around as quickly or easily as you once did. It’s also a fantastic option for families who need to be together and keep an eye on little ones. Another thing to take into account are hallways and pathways- having approximately 48” in width to accommodate easy mobility is helpful. Incorporate 36” interior doorways and update door knobs with levered handles which are much easier to open. Whether the beloved hands in your home are suffering from arthritic pain or reaching on tip toe to open the door- levers are a good option.
If you need help, find a registered C.I.D.Professional that is also a certified Aging-In-Place and Universal Design Specialist. At the end of the day- the goal is to have a home that is perfectly designed for you.