Aging in Place – Designing a Home for the Future

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Aging in place is “the ability to live in one’s own home… safely, independently and comfortably” according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Given a choice, most folks over 65 would prefer living in their own home as they grow older. About 14.5% of the U.S. population is over 65 years old and that is expected to increase to 21.7% by 2040.

Most homes are not designed for older people and some are down right detrimental to aging in place. Modifications can be done to existing homes but if you’re building or renovating a forever home, now is the time to design it for the future!

Aging in Place Design

When Sir CB and I were discussing the design of our home, he wanted to be sure that our home would function for us now and when we’re older. Because I’ve been dealing with genetic spinal issues (my gene pool is a cesspool) we had to face the possibility that I may end up in a wheelchair. Not a pleasant thought but one that had to be factored into our home’s design. While it’s impossible to foretell the future, reviewing your family’s medical history is a good place to start.

We designed these aging in place elements for wheelchair accessibility into our home:

  • 3 foot doorways
  • hardwood flooring (no carpet other than the upstairs media room)
  • wide hallways
  • exterior doorways that are ADA compliant
  • first floor master bedroom and bathroom
  • all of our needs are on the first floor – sleeping, eating, entertaining, laundry and office
  • lever handles for doors – helpful for arthritic hands
  • flat panel (not toggle) light switches
  • bright lighting – overhead, lamps, wall sconces and under cabinet

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Bathroom Design

The CDC cites falls as “the leading cause of injurious death among older adults”.  By incorporating some elements of universal design, we created a bathroom that will serve our needs for aging in place:

  • stone tile floors that are NOT polished (slip resistant)
  • wide doorways
  • lever handles for faucets – helpful for arthritic hands
  • lots of lighting
  • walk-in shower with hand held shower
  • grab bars in shower and by toilets (bracing added during framing)
  • comfort height toilets

Aging in Place

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Kitchen Design

I have challenges with the kitchen design of the home we’re currently living in. So I tried to solve those issues in the aging in place design of our new home:

  • below counter microwave drawer
  • two pro-style 30″ ranges – much less expensive than a 48″ or 60″ pro-style range!!
  • pull out shelves
  • deep drawers for pots & pans
  • dish drawer with peg dividers
  • cookbook shelves built into the island
  • full extension drawers

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Aging in Place

One other thing we added that will be super convenient – an electronic dog door! No more having to let the dog(s) in & out, in & out… no more rushing home to let the dog(s) in & out. With a tag sensor that’s worn on the collar, the door opens automatically when the dog is in range. So cats stay in and wild animals stay out!

 

Do you have any suggestions on aging in place design?

Antoinette de Janasz Baxter