Just because one gets older doesn’t imply a willingness to give up independence. More often than not, the aging population is choosing to age in place. This means that sometimes designers and architects need to work within the confines of current home plans— devising ways to remodel the current home into a safer, more functional one for the elderly.
Remodeling may require tear-down of walls in order to allow for a more open floor plan with fewer obstructions; it may also require new lighting systems and new, larger windows in order to optimize the homes lighting.
Overall, aging in place requires thoughtful consideration into the changes your home requires in order to make it safe and enjoyable.
As we age and lose some of our agility, strength, and mobility, the way our homes are designed can become a nuisance and sometimes even be dangerous. There are many changes you can make your or to your aging loved one’s home that will support their desire to live independently. Contrary to popular belief, adding a handrail here or a grab bar there isn’t enough to ensure aging peoples’ safety and comfort.
Let’s move through each room in a house and discuss some of the most important aging in place interior design ideas for each so that you can get inspired and start brainstorming:
· The Kitchen: Aging in place kitchen design is so important, especially if your loved one loves to spend time in the kitchen cooking. It is a good idea to invest in some softer flooring that will be gentler on the joints and make standing more comfortable. Anti-fatigue floor mats are a great option, but make sure that they are non-slip and have a no-curl, beveled edge to reduce the chances of tripping. Investing in a sturdy stool that your loved one can sit on while they cook can work well. Also, consider adjusting lighting to better illuminate the stove or any areas that need more light, such as over the sink as a dimly lit space can increase your loved one’s risk of cutting themselves with a knife while chopping veggies or burning themselves on the stove. If your loved one is in a wheelchair, consider installing a roll-under sink for safer and easier access.
· The Bathroom: Bathrooms can be hard to navigate for many aging adults, but there is a multitude of options for making them more user-friendly. Consider installing a walk-in shower so that your loved one doesn’t need to step over the tub to get in. Shower rails are a great addition to facilitate balance, and seats (permanent or foldable) are a must for older adults who have difficulty standing on their own. Other bathroom design tips include installing a handheld showerhead for better maneuverability and a shelving or a shower caddy to make toiletries more accessible. A comfort height toilet can also make a huge difference for adults with limited mobility. To prevent falls, consider placing non-slip mats on the floor in the shower and replace any slippery floor tile with textured vinyl flooring.
· The Living Room: An uncluttered, efficient living room is best for aging in place, so help your loved one create a clean, simple furniture arrangement that is easy to navigate and keep clear of clutter. As in bathrooms, grab bars can be very useful in the living room, especially on the walls next to the couch or chair where your loved one likes to sit, as they will make it easier to stand up. Lift chairs are another good thing to look into as they also make getting up from furniture safer. If your aging loved one uses a walker, make sure to arrange the room to easily accommodate this so they don’t compromise their stability while maneuvering through the space.
· The Bedroom: Get rid of any throw rugs or mats in the bedroom and replace flooring with soft, plush carpet. Not only will this be easier on your loved one’s joints, it will keep the room warmer and provide friction to prevent falls. Believe it or not, closet organizers may also be a worthwhile investment for your aging loved one if their closet tends to get cluttered; it everything has an accessible place, there is less of a chance your loved one will trip over clothing or shoes or hurt themselves while trying to reach for out of the way items. Also, placing a sturdy chair in or near their closet for them to sit on while they dress can be useful. Electric adjustable beds may also be useful for helping your loved one get up safely in the morning. If their bedroom is upstairs and your loved one has trouble navigating stairs, consider installing a stair lift so they can get to and from their room with ease.
With all these great ideas, it’s tempting to want to get started redesigning your loved one’s home right away. Before you put your hard hat on, however, it’s a good idea to consult with a Aging in Place Designer, as they have special training for working with aging adults living spaces. They’ll be able to do an assessment of your loved one’s home and put together a report detailing the modifications they suggest. From there, you and your loved one will be able to identify the most important changes to the interior design of your or loved one’s home.
It’s amazing how much difference implementing even a few of the above ideas can make for your aging loved one’s quality and life. it will help them continue living as safely and as independently as possible. A home design specialists can help you retrofit an existing house for improved mobility and safety.
By Institute on Aging