The Center for Disease Control defines aging in place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.” In terms of making a home compatible with aging in place, there are many remodeling options available to make aging in place a reality. These include modifying doorways and access into the home, changes to bathrooms and kitchens to make them more accessible and functional, and changes to other areas of the home that make it safe and functional for the aging in place client.
Access into the home and through the doorways and hallways of the home is one of the first considerations to make. If it becomes necessary to use a cane, walker, wheel chair or motorized scooter, or it just becomes more difficult to move around the home, then improving access throughout the home becomes necessary. Easy access can be very difficult if there are steps or narrow passageways to navigate. A ramp into the entry of the home is one of the first things to consider. Also removing any sunken living areas so the floors are all one level inside the home can really help to avoid trip hazards and improve accessibility. Also, doorways can be enlarged in various ways if the opening is too narrow to navigate. The quickest solution is installing offset door hinges which allow the door to open wider so it doesn’t impede the door opening. Installing pocket doors in place of swinging doors can enlarge the doorway opening to be as wide as the hallway all the way up to 48”. And the new heavy duty pocket door tracks and rollers are very smooth and are built so the door cannot jump the track as in older models. And where hallways are just too narrow to navigate, walls can be reconstructed to enlarge the hallway. Additionally, hand rails and grab bars can be added throughout the home whenever stability is a concern.
Kitchen and bathroom remodeling can make aging in place a dream come true. Most homes are built for young families and use cheap materials that need to be replaced in order to make aging in place a reality. There are so many ways to design and layout kitchens and bathrooms that a design consult with an experienced designer should be considered.
For kitchen remodeling the following list is provided by the National Association of Home Builders:
– Wall support and provision for adjustable and/or varied height counters and removable base cabinets
– Upper wall cabinetry three inches lower than conventional height
– Counter space for dish landing adjacent to or opposite all appliances
– Base cabinet with roll out trays and lazy susans
– Pull-down shelving
– Glass-front cabinet doors
– Open shelving for easy access to frequently used items
These suggestions are just the beginning of the option available and things to consider to create the perfect aging in place kitchen.
Bathroom remodels have many options as well. One of the most popular is the no barrier walk-in shower. These showers have all the features of a luxury walk in shower but include the added benefit of no curb or raised area to impede entry into the shower. This provides many benefits to the aging in place client because it facilitates entry with a walker or wheelchair, and reduces any trip hazards. Removing the shower door also decreases the amount of glass used in the shower which reduced cleaning and maintenance. And it also opens up the usable space of the shower making it easier to turn around and move in the shower. Multiple shower heads, including at least one handheld shower with a metal hose, will make the bathing process easy and enjoyable. The handheld can be incorporated on a slide bar which allows the shower head to be raised and lowered to accommodate either a sitting or standing position in the shower. And if showering is facilitated by a caregiver, this option is indispensable. Rainshower heads, body sprays and standard shower heads can all be incorporated to make a truly luxury showering experience.
Another popular option is the walk-in tub. These tubs are designed for ease of use and can incorporate many therapeutic functions including handheld massaging shower heads, water jets, air jets, bubble therapy, chromatherapy and aromatherapy. One important thing to consider when installing a walk-in tub is the time required to bath. It can often take up to 15 minutes to fill and another 15 minutes to drain these tubs, and you can’t open the door until the water is all drained. But for those who love a bath and don’t feel they can safely raise and lower themselves into a standard tub, these tubs are a great option.
Decorative grab bars are now available in place of the institutional style that has been available until recently. These can be installed throughout the bathrooms and add beauty to the bathroom while also increasing the safety benefits of grab bars. Many decorative grab bar options are now available including toilet paper holder grab bars, shower head slide bar/grab bar combos, and standard grab bars. Some ADA certified grab bars and even made by shower valve manufacturers to complement the shower valve styles they offer. Now you don’t have to sacrifice beauty for safety and convenience.
There are several other areas of the home that are often modified to help those aging in place. One of those areas is the sunken sunken living room. These areas are well known as a trip hazard with or without hand railings. Filling them in with concrete, removing the hand railings and raising the outlets in the area will remove the trip hazard and make the area more functional as a living space. A couple of other common areas to remodel are laundry areas and desk areas. Laundry areas are made more functional by creating an accessible folding area and installing front loading washers and dryers on pedestals to make access to the laundry much easier. And desk areas can be raised to make room for a wheelchair as well as adding pull down shelving above to make access to supplies much easier.
As the current retirement generation grows, aging in place will increasingly become a popular and practical way to live. With all the options now available a home can very comfortable and functional for those who are aging in place. And by selecting a designer who specializes in luxury remodeling with expertise in incorporating all the aging in place options mentioned in this article, you will ensure that your home is also a beautiful and enjoyable place to live. For more information on aging in place you can visit www.aginginplace.com, or go to www.RetroPro.com to schedule an in-home design consult.