Ten thousand Baby Boomers turn 65 each day. In ten years, the senior population is expected to soar to over 36 million seniors, and by 2030, people older than 65 will outnumber children in the US. This means more people are thinking about where they will live when they retire than ever before in history.
“Aging-in-place” is the term for remaining in the home you currently live in as you get older, rather than relocating to a different home or an independent or managed care living facility. Reasons for aging-in-place can range from a basic aversion to moving to wanting to maintain the active lifestyle you currently have, even if it’s at a slightly slower pace. At the same time, the realities of potential issues that could arise as one ages need to be accounted for. Aging-in-place can be a viable option for many, if certain design and functionality goals are met. Below we outline some considerations and questions for making sure aging-in-place is an option for you.
When looking at the entrance to the home, try to imagine what it would be like to enter if you didn’t have full sight or complete mobility.
- Is access to the front door negotiable by walker and/or wheelchair?
- Is the door easy to open or can it be mechanized?
- Is the door wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair?
- Is there space in the entryway to stow a cane or walker without creating an obstacle?
- Is the flooring slick or likely to become slick with rain or snow?
- Is the flooring even? Are there variations in the levels (like a step up) that would need to be eliminated – or visually highlighted so that they are easier to see and navigate?
As people get older, sleeping patterns change. The ability to customize the environment is particularly important.
- Can the bedroom be its own temperature zone so the heating and cooling can be adjusted without impacting other areas of the house?
- Is the bedroom far enough away from the main living areas to allow for quiet sleeping during the day?
- Can adjustable lighting, including blackout drapes, be installed?
- Is there ample room to exit the bed and move around it, including in a wheelchair?
- Is there room to accommodate different kinds of beds, seating or sleeping for caregivers, or medical equipment if needed?
- Is the bedroom close to a bathroom, and is the path to the bathroom easy to navigate?
The bathroom is the room that most quickly comes to mind when thinking about accessibility. It’s also the room that presents the greatest opportunities for making changes now that will benefit you later on.
- Is there a “roll-in” (no curb) shower, or could the current shower be replaced with one?
- Could the tub be removed or replaced with a walk-in tub?
- Are the toilet and sink usable by someone in a wheelchair? Adjustable height vanities can provide workable solutions for now and in the future.
- Are the sink faucets and shower controls equipped with anti-scald fixtures to prevent accidental burning?
- Could grab bars be easily added around the bathroom?
- Is the lighting sufficient for navigating as well as for reading product and prescription labels?
Even kitchens with small footprints can work for aging in place if you have the right elements.
- As in other rooms, flooring should be anti-glare. Because there are likely to be spills, flooring shouldn’t become slick when wet and it should be easy to clean.
- Can the sink be adjusted to accommodate a wheelchair?
- Is there ample, easy-to-reach storage for pots, pans and other equipment so that overhead racks and top-level shelving are not necessary?
A home with stairs isn’t necessarily off the table for aging in place, as long as you are willing to make some adjustments if needed.
- Can handrails be added to the staircase if there are none?
- Is there room for a mechanized stair climber?
- Is it possible to install an elevator in addition to the stairs?
- If necessary, could you relocate all living to the main floor exclusively?
In addition to the room considerations outlined above, you’ll also want a floor that doesn’t easily show wear and tear from canes, walkers, or wheelchairs.
Other Aging in Place Considerations
- Are handles and fixtures easy to use for an older person with limited sight or mobility?
- Are the hallways throughout the home wide enough for a wheelchair?
- Are windows easy to open?
- Is there a bonus room that could be used for a caregiver if needed?
Whether you’re looking to stay in your current home but need to make some aging-in-place modifications or you’re considering moving, we can help walk you through the design considerations and options.