There was an AARP study done that basically said more than four in five Americans over the age of 55 plan to remain in their homes for as long as possible. Unfortunately, if you are in this group, chances are, you are not preparing for this situation. A report by the Mature Life Institute that summarizes a survey of homeowners in the 55+ age group and what they are looking for in purchasing a home. What it showed was that this group mentioned they wanted high-speed internet access and energy efficient appliances. While these are great things (and necessary), there are other considerations that you should consider for safety and comfort as you live in your home.
There is a checklist by The National Association of Home Builders of proven safety adaptations to help you live better and longer that includes such things as installing bathroom modifications like grab bars, raised toilets, non-slip flooring, and installing railings on both sides of the stairs. Things like having increased lumens in lighting, low thresholds, wider doorways, lower upper cabinets with accessible shelving, and choosing lever door handles are good choices.
Are you one of the remodelers in the baby boomer age group or older who is not preparing for the future so you may remain in your home as you age? Maybe this is due to a lack of knowledge about what to expect as aging occurs. It is time to start planning so that pro-aging in place choices are a norm, not a special situation. It is time for you to be pro-active and plan. If you are remodeling or building, find a designer who can help you plan ahead and incorporate small but necessary elements so you are not stuck in a home that is potentially dangerous or requires expensive changes later. It is usually easier and more cost effective incorporating accessibility design from the beginning rather than retrofitting when an emergency crops up.
The number one key to designing for your forever home is to think about how you live and not just make the space “pretty.” Take this scenario for instance, you have a nice home and want to remodel. Your walls need painted, flooring needs updated, and lighting needs upgraded. 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 want to create a home you can call your forever home?
There are many things to consider making this happen. As you age, your eyes do not see as well as they used to making your surroundings seem darker. If you have chosen finishes conforming to the current home trend, the already dark space becomes a recipe for depression and even a safety disaster. 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 as you age. Luxurious marble and tile are extremely slick yet often are installed 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 reduce slipping more than slick or highly polished materials.
Be pro-active and research the finishes you are looking at choosing and make sure they are safe, have low maintenance needs and provide comfort for you and your loved ones both now and in the future. Sites like the NKBA and the AARP sites provide some guidelines. Consider working with a CAPS (Certified Aging in Place Specialist). Universal Design elements and pre-planning can go a long way to making your life safer and easier. The hippest, hottest trends may look very cool but will they stand the test of time: your time?
I would love to hear your comments and ideas- please feel free to share your ideas and thoughts about planning ahead for aging in place.