Although aging is a fact of life, it is surprising how little thought most people give to ensuring their home remains a safe and comfortable haven for themselves or their loved ones during their golden years.
There many minor modifications that can be made to a home environment to ensure it is a suitable residence for aging adults or people with disabilities. Subtle alterations to interior and exterior design aimed at making sure occupants maintain their functional independence can make a tremendous difference.
Those intimately acquainted with the unique wants and needs of aging populations and how to address them in daily life, such as the designers of Surprise, AZ retirement communities, have some tips to offer. Many of their suggestions are easy to implement and have the potential to significantly improve the quality of life for our loved ones and ourselves as we age.
What to Consider
Physical changes related to aging can decrease mobility and may eventually result in use of a wheelchair or walker, so an ideal home for older adults features some or all of the following:
Doorways wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs.
Ramps instead of stairs.
For 2-story homes, bedrooms and bathrooms on the first floor.
The type of flooring you choose is just as important and finding the correct type requires careful consideration.
Non-slip surfaces are an essential safety feature and can dramatically reduce the incidence of potentially serious falls.
Floors should also be easily navigable in materials that provide minimal resistance and allow unimpeded movement of wheelchairs and other mobility devices. Textured linoleum and low pile carpet with medium fibers tend to work well and meet both of the above criteria.
Good lighting is an aspect of home design that is too often overlooked. Poor lighting makes navigating indoors a challenge for individuals with failing vision and can conceal unseen obstacles in the resident’s path which may prove hazardous and result in trips, slips, and falls.
Light fixtures should be prominently and strategically placed in a manner that minimizes the number of places for shadows to hide.
Natural light is also important, as sunlight is crucial for the body’s production of vitamin D, a nutrient that plays a role in calcium absorption, bone strength, and mental health. Windows and skylights are a great way to brighten a space and make it feel more welcoming.
Most senior adults value their independence.
A bathroom equipped with non-slip floors, grab bars, and showers with sliding doors rather than tubs with high rims can enable an elderly individual see to personal needs on their own rather than relying on outside assistance.
Placing electrical outlets at table or countertop height rather than along baseboards makes them easier to locate and access and doesn’t require bending down to plug and unplug appliances.
Doors fitted with lever-style handles in place of knobs are easier to manipulate and don’t need to be firmly gripped, which can be difficult for those with arthritis.
All of these are simple changes that can have big results.