Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Secrets to Creating an Age Friendly Home

When people buy a home they intend to live in for the rest of their lives, they don't always consider if that home will suit them as they age. In fact, many people plan remodeling projects that won't help them at all when they get older, such as putting in a hot tub. Maybe that's something they can finally afford and have always wanted, but they don't take into consideration how useful - or not - something like that will be as they age. Here are a few things you should think about in creating an age friendly home. Keep in mind that everyone ages differently, and you may not know exactly what types of accommodations you'll need, but by planning ahead, you'll have some idea of what you may need.
The ideal home for seniors should include a no-step layout, including no steps up to at least one entrance of your house. If you have steps at every door of your home, be aware that you may need to add a ramp at some point in the future. This holds true even if you or your spouse isn't in a wheelchair; the fact is that negotiating steps becomes difficult for nearly everyone as they age. Doorways, both within the house as well as entrance doors, should be at least 32 inches wide to accommodate a wheelchair or walker, and doors should have lever handles instead of knobs for arthritic hands.
Your home should ideally have a full-sized bath and master bedroom on the first floor, as stairs may become difficult to navigate. Bathrooms should include toilets and counter tops that are at a comfortable height for seniors. Showers are ideal for seniors, since most falls occur getting in and out of the tub. You can get shower chairs with wide seats. If you already have a tub and choose not to remodel, add several grab bars and a bath bench to put across the tub so you don't have to stand up to reach necessary items. You should also add a grip mat in the bottom of the tub and a hand-held showerhead so you can avoid standing as much as possible. If you have room for it, you might also want to consider placing a sturdy chair near the tub to aid in mobility and dressing.
Bedrooms, particularly the first floor master bedroom, should have large closets with accessible storage and a bed that is low enough for seniors to easily climb into. Since older people need three times as much light as younger people do, you'll also want adequate lighting, not just in the bedroom, but also throughout the entire house. A good reading light will help, and you may want to consider a nightlight to make middle of the night trips to the bathroom safer. If the bedroom is connected to the bathroom, a sturdy chair near the bathroom door will be good if you need a little help getting to the bathroom.
Adequate lighting is particularly important in the kitchen because there are so many ways to get hurt in that room. You can add under-cabinet and can lights if you don't have enough florescent lighting. You'll also want to make sure cabinets are easily accessible, and add roll out shelves and more shallow shelves if necessary. Stoves should have large dials for easy viewing, and ovens should have pull out racks. Other senior kitchen necessities include a stool for resting, a lever style faucet on the sink, a garbage disposal and trash compactor, and a u-shaped galley kitchen layout so food does not have to be carried.
Other changes that will help you age in your home:
  • Low pile carpet for easy mobility
  • Low shine floors that minimize glare
  • Pressure mats instead of motion detectors that interfere with hearing aids
  • Buzzers instead of high frequency alarms and doorbells
  • Adequate heating system so space heaters aren't needed
  • Touch lamps instead of ones with knobs
  • Out of the way extension cords
  • No throw rugs
  • Furniture with firm, high seats
  • Chairs with arms and without coasters so they don't slide
  • Light colored floors and bright walls, with a contrast between the two
Outside of the home, patios are better for seniors than are decks, because decks require more maintenance and tend to be slick when wet. There may come a time where maintaining an elaborately landscaped yard is too much for you. As you get older, you may want to consider either simplifying your yard so you have less to do in it, or hiring someone to take over yard care duties. Following these tips can make aging in your home much easier.

Joseph Talbot, ABR®, ASA, SRES®, AGA, SRS®
Peak Lifestyle Realty Ltd., Brokerage

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