The number one key to designing for those Aging in Place is to design for the the person or people who are living there and not just make the space “pretty.” Take this scenario for instance, you have a nice space to design, walls are ready to be painted, no flooring has been chosen, basically a blank space has been given to you. Are you going to go with the current home trends found in most homes these days? Are you going to choose the generic brown or dark taupe for the walls and hard wood and tile for the floors? What if you wanted to create a home for someone who wants to retire in this home? What if your couple you are decorating for wants to age in place? Are you prepared for this client?
There are many things to consider for the client who wishes to make their home their forever home. As a person ages, their eyes also don’t see as well as they used to making their surroundings seem darker. If you have designed to the current home trend, the already dark space becomes a recipe for depression and even a safety disaster. What happens is older eyes require more light to see things clearly, the dark walls will absorb the light creating an even darker space. In addition to this, older eyes tend to view colors with a yellow cast to them.
Take those shiny wood floors and ceramic tile that is so sought after in today’s homes; these finishes can create a slip factor that can be treacherous to someone who is older. Luxurious marble and tile are extremely slick yet often are placed in the bathrooms and showers. Yes, they look great but they are not the most functional for an older person. Consider flooring that has a higher slip resistance factor. Lightly textured surfaces tend to be more slip inhibiting than slick or highly polished material.
Our population is aging and the Baby-Boomers are already in their 50’s and even older. Chances are you will have more and more clients entering their active retirement years. Be pro-active and research the finishes you are looking at specifying and make sure that they are safe, require low maintenance and provide comfort for your clients both now and in the future. Sites like the NKBA and the AARP sites provide some guidelines. Consider working with a CAPS or consider becoming one yourself. Universal Design elements and pre-planning can go a long way to making your clients living safer and easier. The hippest, hottest trends may look really cool but will they stand the test of time- your clients time?