As our population ages, the homes we live in need to age with us. Whether you are anticipating a need to adapt your home for yourself in the future, or for aging parents or grandparents, there is a benefit to being prepared for future eventualities. Even active adults may suffer a broken leg, suffer an illness or need a hip replacement, so universal design features will be critical to making your surroundings adapt to these events.
One of the first design features to consider is having at least one zero-grade entry into your home. In other words, is there at least one threshold that can be crossed without a step? You should be able to enter into the home without lifting your feet, if necessary. Another design feature that should be considered for those age 55 and up are grab-bars in at least one bathroom. Grab bars can be beautiful, unobtrusive design features, that will come in handy when they are needed later. As a default, consider installing backer-board into the wall if you are doing a bathroom shower remodel, to make it easier to install a grab bar at a later date. Another corollary design feature for bathrooms is making one shower curb-less. Removing the step will also increase your home’s resale value as the population ages.
Moving onto the kitchen, do you have at least one cutting surface in the room that is at a height where you can sit and use it? A kitchen island, or a lower table area? Also, do you have plenty of cabinetry that is down low, and easily accessible? Also, how is your lighting where you have steps? Good lighting is critical to permit visibility of changes in elevation, as is task lighting in areas such as bedrooms, medicine cabinets and kitchens.
If you’re building a new home, you’re in the optimal position of requiring some of these design features being installed with much less expense. At minimum, consider installing 36-inch wide doors (at minimum at one entrance to the home and one bedroom and bathroom) in case a family member is confined to a wheelchair. Zero-grade entries to the home are another feature that is much easier to incorporate when a home is being built. Finally, consider having your builder install electrical outlets at a higher location on the walls.
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