Americans are getting older. In fact, the growth of the population ages 65 and older—fueled primarily by the baby boom generation—is unprecedented in US history. The Population Reference Bureau estimates that the number of Americans age 65 and older will nearly double from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million by 2060. As our population ages, many are looking for ways to age in place; that is, to live safely and independently in their own homes.
Aging in place requires the building (or renovation) of homes and additions that accommodate different needs as we age. Here are some design features that homeowners should consider when focused on accessibility and aging in place:
- Easy Access. A home’s main entrance should not have steps and should have a threshold height of no more than half an inch.
- The Right Flooring. While it is impossible to prevent every fall, non-slip surfaces such as low-pile carpet, cork, and slip-resistant vinyl can be used throughout the home to minimize the risk. Eliminate the need for thresholds by installing the same flooring throughout the home.
- Wide Hallways. For easiest maneuvering, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recommends hallways with a minimum of three feet in width. Wide hallways allow residents accessibility to every space in their home with or without assistance from a walker, wheelchair, or scooter.
- Wide Doors. According to the ADA, doorways should have at least 32 inches of clear width. In addition, to ensure easy transitioning from room to room, thresholds should be as flush to the floor as possible.
- Home Layout. A full bath and bedroom on the main level of a home are not only convenient, they are also added safety features for seniors. They allow access to private space without the need to navigate stairs. Walk-in tubs or a shower with non-slip seating can be incorporated as well.
- Be Open. According to the National Association of Home Builders, a five-foot by five-foot clear space in an area leaves enough room to navigate a wheelchair and get turned around properly with a walker.
- Kitchen Considerations. Small modifications in the kitchen can have a great impact on the quality of life. For example, upper kitchen cabinets that are three inches lower than standard height can help reduce the tendency to overreach and potentially lose balance. Countertops that are three inches lower than the standard height of 36 inches allow seniors and those with limited mobility to fully participate in meal prep. And rounding all countertop edges and corners can help reduce bumping and bruising and minimize injury in the event of a fall.
- Add an Elevator. Elevators are not only a convenience and a safety precaution, but also can add significant value to a home.
- Make it Brighter. Significant lighting—either natural or artificial—is critical. Providing nice, bright spaces will help ease the mind and provide a clearer understanding of surroundings. In addition, choosing saturated colors whenever possible and adding contrast by alternating light and dark hues is especially useful to aid in depth perception.
While this is just a shortlist of considerations, we at Artisan Builders understand that our client’s individual needs and lifestyles vary. Please contact our team of in-house and consulting specialists if you have any questions.