Archive for February, 2020

February 24, 2020

Why You Should Be Installing “Aging In Place” Features Into Your Custom Home

According to the U.S. census, there are around 47 million citizens over sixty-five living in the United States. That’s roughly 14.5% of our entire population. The baby boomer generation, the second-largest age group in our nation’s history, has around 73 million people total. As they continue to enter their sixties, seventies, and eighties, the conversation surrounding long term care and where they’ll retire and live continues.  

Here’s the thing, only around 3% of senior citizens live in nursing homes. And statistics show that, as a society, our life expectancy has increased to approximately 78 years old. Since people are living longer, and aren’t retiring or moving to nursing homes, we must start to consider “aging in place” design for our homes and our parents’ homes.

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What is “Aging in Place” Design?

The CDC’s definition of aging in place is “The ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.”

Essentially, designing a home with “aging in place” features is all about creating a home that allows for safe, comfortable, and independent living. If you plan your home’s design with aging in mind, it’s much more possible to stay in your house, versus moving in with family, a retirement community, or a nursing home.

Experts suggest that you don’t wait until you need these features to incorporate them. Instead, add them to your home in your late forties through your fifties, so that you’ll never have to worry about how you’ll navigate your life as you age.

No one likes to think about aging and what that means, but for most of us, aging will entail some variation of:

  • A Loss of Mobility
  • Decrease in Balance
  • Worsening Vision and Hearing
  • Dexterity Loss in Our Hands
  • More Fragility Overall

So, it’s imperative that you design your home with features that prepare you for the unavoidable effects of aging. Whether you’re interested in “aging in place” design for yourself in the future, yourself now, or you’re interested in helping an elderly family member stay independent, there are several design features to help you or your loved one age with dignity in their space.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Around The Home

There are a few design features that apply throughout your entire home:

  • Keep the floor plan open and obstruction-free.
  • Opt for lever-style doorknobs instead of turn-style doorknobs. They’re much easier to operate.
  • Install adequate lighting and fixtures throughout and opt for LED lights instead of standard bulbs that require frequent changes.
  • You’ll want all the doorways to be at least thirty-six inches wide.
  • Install soft floor like carpet or cork versus hardwood or concrete floors. They’re much safer in case of a fall.
  • Get rid of stairs and long hallways, and instead, go for single-floor layouts.
  • Raise outlets higher up the walls and lower light switches.
  • Also, choose rocker panel light switches, or motion-activated lights, versus a toggle switch.

Electronics

These modern electronics make homes safer and easier to navigate:

  • Stairlifts allow ease of access for multi-floor homes, reducing the risk of falling or tripping in the stairway.
  • Elevators, while a pricey installation, can make multi-floor homes a comfortable, livable reality for aging seniors.
  • Installing security cameras gives access to handheld insights of property safety while providing ease of mind for elderly residents.
  • Emergency buttons in accident-prone areas like bathrooms, kitchens, and living rooms or on-person devices are the most effective way of alerting authorities to emergency situations.

For The Bathroom

The bathroom presents several areas for “aging in place” design features:

  • Have plenty of sturdy grab bars installed around the toilet and shower.
  • In addition to adding seating to the shower, you’ll want to ensure the shower has slip-resistant flooring, like a  solid surface shower base.
  • Ensure that there’s adequate drainage, inside and outside the tub, to prevent slips and falls.
  • Add an automatic flusher to the toilet and anti-scalding temperature controls to the shower.
  • On the topic of the shower, make sure to install an adjustable, and handheld showerhead.
  • Lower at least one sink in the bathroom.

In The Kitchen

For the kitchen, the feature upgrades will depend on how much time you or your loved one spend in the kitchen now.

  • Consider adding a surface for food prep that allows for sitting. A lower height, island on wheels is a perfect solution.
  • Don’t put any cabinets above the stove, as it presents a hazard.
  • Look into appropriately sized appliances (i.e., a lower stove).
  • Install easy-to-open cabinets, pantries, and drawers.

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Why “Aging in Place Design” is Important

The above suggestions are just a few ways to incorporate “aging in place” design. Again, no one wants to think of themselves or their loved ones losing mobility and the ability to live independently. But unfortunately, it’s an inevitable part of life.

At some point, we’ll all come to a place where we can no longer take care of ourselves the way we once did. We’ll be forced to move out of our homes or have long term care. However, making design changes today that consider this fact help avoid this impossible decision in the future.

Instead, if we design our homes and our loved ones’ home, with long term independence in mind, then we can continue to live our lives normally, well into our golden years.

Matt Lee is the owner of the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the home building materials industry. He is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase property value.