aging in place

Aging in Place and Designing for Safety

Aging in place is the concept of being able to stay in your own home as you age into and through your senior years.  To do this, a home must be designed to accommodate things like limited mobility, fading eye sight, and the higher risk of injury from trips and falls.  So what does aging in place design have to do with wellness architecture?  Safety!  A home that is designed to adapt to an aging person is a home that is going to be safe and easily accessible for everyone.

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An often overlooked component of a healthy home is a safe home that protects its occupants from things like falls, poor lighting levels that cause accidents, and burns and accidents from kitchen appliances.  And rest assured, an aging in place (and safe) home doesn’t have to look like you’re walking into a facility.  In fact, you probably wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference between a home designed with aging in place in mind and a typical home at first glance.  But you would notice how easy it is to move around and function efficiently in the well-designed aging in place home.  Here are some key components to making a safe, aging in place friendly home.

 

Aging in Place Kitchen
Credit: Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times

Kitchen Design

  • Base cabinets are more easily accessible than wall cabinets.  Install base cabinets with pull out drawers to avoid having to dig things out of the back of a cabinet.  Keeping kitchen items in base cabinets minimizes the risk of injury for anyone, young or old, from climbing to reach something in a wall cabinet.
  • Choosing a range with front controls eliminates the need to reach over hot surfaces to control the range.
  • Install a microwave at counter height in a cabinet or place it on the counter.  Avoid placing a microwave over a cook top since it is hard for a lot of people to reach and can lead to injury, especially if the cook top is in use!
  • Use drawer pulls that don’t get caught on loose clothing and are easy for everyone to grasp.

 

Aging in Place Bathroom

Bathroom Design

  • Zero threshold showers eliminate tripping and slipping while bathing.  They also look great since there is a continuity in wall and floor finish between the shower stall and the rest of the bathroom.
  • Have a separated ‘wet room’ that includes just the shower and bath.  This keeps water away from other walking surfaces in the bathroom and makes for a more sanitary bathing experience.
  • A countertop that provides room for knee clearance if someone is in a wheel chair also aids in an easy to clean bathroom floor.
  • Providing grab bars that look and act like towel racks helps anyone out in a slippery situation.

 

Stair Lighting
Credit: Hitlights

Lighting

  • Vary the type of light sources to include task lighting, focal lighting and ambient lighting to address all the different types of activities that occur in a home.  This helps with eye strain and glare.
  • Install night lighting in halls, stairways and bathrooms to avoid trips and falls in the middle of the night.

 

Lever Door Handle
Credit: Interior Doors Design

Flooring, Doors and Stairs

  • Flooring material changes should be at the same height to avoid tripping.
  • Avoid slippery flooring surfaces.
  • Avoid high pile rugs since they are great trippers and they hold dust and other pollutants.
  • Lever door handles are much easier to grasp than a door knob.  They are also easier to control with your elbow if you are trying to open the door with your hands full.
  • Stairs should always have a handrail on at least one side, but putting the railing on both sides provides even more comfort and safety when maneuvering stairs.

 

There are many more components that go into an aging in place home, but these tips cover some of the safety items that will benefit anyone living in the home.  Incorporating these components in a healthy home will protect you and your family from unnecessary injuries and will give you the flexibility of staying in your home as long as you want.

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