How to Plan a Home Remodel for Aging in Place?
As you age, your needs change, and that’s true even when you reach your later years. Whether you’re planning for retirement or welcoming an elderly loved one to come live with you, there are several structural changes you’ll need to make in order to provide a safe and comfortable living environment.
In addition to making updates to your existing home that follow principles of Universal Design, another way to help older citizens age in place is by building customized accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Accessory dwelling units are often referred to as “in-law suites” or “granny flats”, and offer a private, completely independent living area that is built on the same property as a primary residence.
5 Tips for planning a Home Remodel
Below are a few tips to help you or a loved one with aging in place with comfort and convenience, whether in their primary residence or an ADU.
1. General Floor Plan
Starting with the basics, an in-law suite should consist of just a single floor so the occupant doesn’t have to climb up and down stairs, which can become a falling hazard. If entry steps are necessary, the handrail should be exceptionally stable, with dual sides that are both easy to grab onto. Additionally, steps and hallways should be well-lit and lined with contrast strips to make it easy to see where to place one’s feet. If a second floor is absolutely necessary in your ADU, or if you already have stairs in your primary residence, look into adding either an elevator or lift.
For elderly individuals with walkers, those who use wheelchairs or anything similar, there should be 5×5 feet of space for easy turning in the bathroom, kitchen, living space and bedroom. Just like with the stairs, all hallways should have abundant lighting and be at least 36 inches wide for ease of mobility.
2. Plan your Kitchen
While you’re planning your kitchen, consider installing height-adjustable countertops and pull-out shelving as well as base cabinets that can easily be removed. Much like you did with the steps, it’s good to add stripes on the edges of countertops to make them easy to see and hard to bump into. Cabinet doors made of glass make it easy to see what’s inside and can save time. In actuality, this is a good design idea no matter the age of the home’s occupants.
All kitchen appliances should have display panels that are easy to read and understand. Side-by-side freezers and refrigerators are also a great addition to granny flats, as are either wall or side-swing ovens. Stoves should have level burners, front controls and a downdraft feature that keeps heat away from the user’s face.
The bathroom is a critical area of the home that should be built with Universal Design in mind. Bathtubs and showers designed for the elderly with a fold-down seat make it easy to wash without feeling overly fatigued and also help to reduce the chances of injury. To better secure grab bars, add bracing around the shower, tub, toilet and shower seat. There should be plenty of light in the shower stall, and the floors should be slip-resistant. Finally, toilets in a granny flat should be at least two inches higher than standard toilets.
4. Laundry Room
There should be lots of room to move in laundry rooms, but not so much that it can become a chore to transfer clothes from the washer or dryer or any necessary surface. Think ahead and create a laundry room layout that can easily accommodate a wheelchair or walker, even if no one is in need of one now. The washer and dryer should be front-loading, to make it easy on the user’s back, but another precaution is to add a pedestal underneath the appliances to further reduce the chances of strain.
Carts and rolling tables take care of some of the grunt work for those who aren’t as strong as they used to be and have trouble transferring clothes. Rolling hampers are also a good idea for getting dirty clothes to the laundry room without issue.
5. Home Exterior
Construction and remodeling projects that accommodate the elderly shouldn’t just apply to a home’s interior. Either no or low-step home entrances between the inside and outside add an element of safety, as well as a touch of modern style. For designs where steps are unavoidable, they should have slip-resistant mats or textures. As usual, sturdy handrails are a must for all exterior steps.
Residential sidewalks need adequate clearance to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers, and there shouldn’t be any obstructions that someone might trip over, no matter how young or old they are. Be sure to occasionally check all sidewalks and walkways for cracks and other types of damage that could result in injury.
Author Bio: Gregg Cantor is the President / CEO of Murray Lampert Design, Build, Remodel, a San Diego design-build contracting firm serving area homeowners since 1975. Murray Lampert specializes in every aspect of the design-build process, from design planning to permitting, home renovation construction to custom finishes.
Tags Home Remodel