Most people want to live in their homes for as long as possible. Unfortunately, many existing homes and new residential construction designs do not account for the unique needs and safety considerations of seniors. That means that you may need to move or invest in expensive renovations later when your health and mobility needs change.
One smart way to avoid this is to implement some designs now that will make it easier to live in your home as you get older. Aging in place remodeling extends how long you can stay in your home safely and independently by adding certain conveniences for age-related challenges. In this article, we’ll explore some best practices and tips for designing a home where you can “age in place.”
Avoiding Slippery Surfaces
Tripping and falling are major health concerns for seniors, who may suffer from serious injuries after a fall. An important step in creating a home where you can age in place is to limit the chance of falling through design and material choices.
One important consideration in this process is understanding the slip coefficient of flooring materials. Floors should have the right texture and finish to reduce the chance that you will slip on the floor. In mudrooms, where dirt and mud need to be washed away, having a floor drain can make it easier to wash down mud from the surface of the floor.
Planning for Accessible Bathrooms
It’s impossible to guess if you will need a wheelchair or other mobility equipment in the future. However, during your renovation, you can plan for an accessible bathroom anyway, and it might come in handy for older guests or those who are recovering from a medical event. An accessible bathroom simply needs to be larger with more floor space to accommodate a wheelchair and/or a home health aide.
Steps can be problematic, even without a wheelchair. If possible, consider adding ramps or other gradually elevated designs to walkways and entrances. It will make it easier to bring in groceries using a cart or wheel a dolly with furniture. Not all homes can be designed in this way. However, it can be a helpful feature if it is possible and could potentially minimize the need to add accessibility ramps later.
Investing in Flat and Solid Surfaces
Even for outdoor spaces, you can make design decisions now that can make it easier to age in place. Instead of a pea gravel-covered outdoor space, investing in a flat concrete or wood porch now creates a space that’s safer and more future-proof down the line. Often these small changes only appear as a different aesthetic choice rather than options chosen purely for accessibility.
Reducing the Height of Appliances, Counters, and Thermostats
An aging in place remodeling project may include reducing the height of appliances, counters, and thermostats. If you are in a wheelchair, you won’t easily be able to reach and operate a digital thermostat that’s too high up on the wall. By making it slightly lower, you can operate it both standing and sitting.
Similarly, having storage areas that require a step stool or ladder to reach could be dangerous later if your mobility is limited. You can reduce the top height of counters to ensure that you have an easier time reaching all of the storage areas in your home.
Aging in Place Certified
One thing to look for when selecting an architect is to see if they are certified in creating homes for aging in place. This means that they have undergone specific training in understanding the best practices for designing these types of homes. They will have a better understanding of the types of mobility and health concerns that need to be accounted for when developing initial designs. At hpd architects + interiors, Holly is Aging in Place certified and has a wealth of experience helping clients plan for their future.
Discuss How to Future-Proof Your Home with hpd architects + interiors
There are a number of considerations to think about when designing for aging in place. By working with an architect who has relevant experience and certifications, you can avoid mistakes and be more efficient when future-proofing your home. Schedule a consultation to discuss how to prepare your home, and we will happily share our suggestions for your individual situation.
Laura Davis is a registered architect and interior designer in the state of Texas and Colorado, and a founding member of hpd architecture + interiors. Laura's extensive experience includes residential as well as commercial and retail projects. She also has a particular interest in restoration, holding a certificate in Historic Preservation. She is energized by the character of older homes and the stories of those who have lived there. Responding to the needs of the current owner, while also honoring the personality of the original home is a delicate process to be enjoyed.