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What makes a Senior Friendly Home?

Whether you are building a home, renovating a home or buying a home, it is important to think about aging in place! These senior friendly tips are beneficial for everyone, whether you are young, old, have children, live alone or accompany your parents.

So, take advantage of this rebuilding and renovating stage to turn your house into a home for the future. A place that is comfortable, safe and secure for everyone. Your home features must be comfortable and friendly for your kids when they are still young and as they grow older. It must also be right for you as a young parent and as you get older. Or if you have elderly parents who are living with you. Design your home as a future senior living home!

We will be covering a few different topics, listed below:

  • Door handles

  • Safe and secure lighting

  • Location of electrical outlets

  • Electronics with adjustable volumes

  • Bathroom safety

  • Kitchen design layout

  • Entryway

  • Stairways

  • Interior design styles

Needs of Older People or People With Disabilities

Problems with some of the existing house designs are narrow entrances and doorways, which make accessibility with wheelchairs difficult. Stairs are narrow and steep, and kitchens and bathrooms are not easily accessible. These possible design oversights failed to consider the needs of older people or people with disability. New codes and regulations have been made to accommodate these needs but older homes now need to be updated to meet those requirements.

For Senior People

Consider the following simple design alternatives to turn your present house into a home that will be safer and more secure for your future.

1. Door Handles

A door handle can either be in the form of the doorknob (round) or door lever. It comes in various designs, shapes, and functions. Some can make a simple plain door look grand and expensive. But some designs can also be difficult for children as well as for older adults suffering from arthritis, and this can be stressful.

Door levers are the best all around for anyone! Using the door lever instead of the doorknob, will be easier for children and older adults to use. It is also easier to use if your hands are wet and slippery or if you are carrying something with both hands. In which case, you can still open the door with your arm.

2. Good Lighting

Properly lighted areas will ensure a safe and secure home. You do not want to have a bad fall because of poor lighting. Lighting should be ample but not glaring, as it could be harmful to anyone.

  • Pay close attention and provide sufficient lighting to outdoor areas, reading areas, bathrooms, stairways and in workspaces such as garages and kitchens.

  • Fix under the cabinet lights to the cooking area and kitchen counter.

  • Install light switches at both the bottom and top of stairways.

  • Use large rocker-type light switches, as it is easy and convenient, especially if you are arthritic. When your hands are full, you can always use your elbow to switch on the lights. It may cost more than a conventional light switch, but it is more user-friendly for the young and old.

  • Nightlights are useful when you need to move around at night, like going to the bathroom.

  • Emergency lights will be handy when there is an electrical blackout. It must be fixed at the stairways, kitchen, and exit doors.

  • Lastly, install a sufficient number of windows to bring in natural lights into the house. Not only for the elderly but also for people of all ages, the benefits of sunlight therapy are tremendous, as it is a cure for depression. It is also a source of vitamin D, which is important for better absorption of calcium. Sunlight can also be brought into your house through glass doors and skylights.

3. Location of Electrical Outlets

If you suffer from a backache, you will know how painful it can be by just bending over to switch on your computer or any other electrical items.

Outlet at Table Top Height

It will be easier to plug or unplug an electrical device from plug points placed at a tabletop height instead of 1 foot from the floor, especially when you are older or suffer from a backache. Interior design-wise, this location may not look great, but if fixed properly, it can still be presentable.

Additional Outlets

Eliminate the use of extension cord as people, whether young or old, might trip over it. Install additional plug points if you foresee more usage within that area.

Sometimes, outlets can be an eyesore, hence why they are usually close to the floor or in awkward hidden places. You can still have accessible outlets but hide them in better places, such as getting flush outlets or different types of outlets that blend in better. You can also hide them within other pieces of furniture or in/under cabinets!

4. Hearing Problems

Hearing can be a problem as we age, and installing devices such as smoke detectors with a strong strobe light instead of just sound can help those with hearing problems.

A doorbell must be audible in all rooms, and for additional security, buy an intercom that doubles up as a doorbell. A telephone with adjustable volume control and with a large keypad will be useful for people with vision, hearing or dexterity problems.

5. Safety in the Bathroom

  • Wet bathroom floors can be a danger even for the young. Choose floor tiles that are non-slip. If you have a bathroom mat, buy the non-skid type.

  • A grab bar or handrail is another useful device to install, as it helps you move around easily when getting in and out of the shower area or when using the toilet.

  • The toilet bowl and seat should be about 17 inches high, as it will be less stressful on your knees and back. It may not be kid-friendly, and to overcome this, place a non-slip step to help your child use the toilet.

  • The bathroom door should open outwards and not into the bathroom area. If someone falls and is near the door, you can still go in and help. Pocket doors are also an innovative way to help with functionality but while not loosing space.

  • A level-style faucet will be easier to use for both children and elderly people. It will also be easier to control hot and cold water mixers.

  • For the shower, a pressure-balanced lever will prevent any possible scalding. Consider installing a hand-held shower head in addition to a fixed shower head, as it will be easier for people with limited mobility.

6. Kitchen Design Layout

An ideal kitchen layout should be in the form of a ‘kitchen triangle’ linking the working distance between cooker, fridge, and sink. The bigger the triangles, the more walking you need to do. For the elderly, a smaller triangle will reduce walking and be less tiring. You will need to compromise on this kitchen layout to meet your current needs and your future requirements as you get older.

A wall oven fixed at a suitable height will be easier to use without having to bend over if it is the floor standing type.

7. Entryway

When possible, design your house with no steps at the main entrance. The door opening and hallway width should be at least 3.5 feet wide.

Have it well-lighted and place a bench near the entrance. This is useful in case you need to place something while you unlock the main door. The bench can also be a place to sit while you tie or untie your shoelaces.

8. Stairways

Install a handrail on both sides of the staircase and extend it beyond the first and last step. The step should also have a different color scheme or design to mark the edge of each step.

If you are building a new house, design your stairway with a gentle incline. This will take up more space, but it will be easier to use as you get older.

9. Interior Design Styles

In addition, consider the following design style issues that will affect the elderly:

  • If you like to have rugs or carpets over your marble or tiled floors, place carpet underlay to prevent slipping and tripping over them.

  • Older people may suffer from impaired contrast perception. So, you have to introduce high contrasting colors to the foreground and background. For example, the toilet seat must contrast with the floor colors, a drop in floor level must have different colored tiles or floor finishes indicating the drop, and chairs must be of a different color to the floor to ensure better visibility of the chair's edge.

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