Aging in place is a concept homeowners are now embracing because the benefits are so clear: it offers the freedom and dignity to live in your home for a lifetime. From raising a young family, through busy midlife, and into your senior years, choosing a floor plan, products, and materials that help you stay in your home as you age is a smart decision. If you’re building a new home, think of aging in place as a design insurance policy. You can incorporate universal design elements both before you build and before you develop significant health or mobility issues.
Universal Is Not One-Size-Fits-All
An AARP poll found that nearly 75% of people hope to stay in their homes as they age. Of course, not everyone ages in the same way, but universal design works by incorporating floor plans and products that can be used by the widest range of people no matter what challenges aging brings. That doesn’t mean settling for a cookie-cutter home. You’re still free to bring in design elements that reflect how you want to live your life. Aging in place design solutions, though, help you plan for needs you may need later, incorporating those elements into your floor plan so that they seamlessly blend with the rest of the home.
At Foley Development Group, we’re skilled at creating floor plans to accommodate aging in place needs. “Future-proofing” your home during the design process lets you plan for future needs, not struggle to meet them when you need them most. Here are some important things to keep in mind.
Even if you want to build a multi-story home, make sure there’s a bedroom, fully accessible bath, kitchen, and living area on the first floor. More than 40% of today’s homes include lower level master suites, which allows homeowners with mobility issues to avoid the stairs. To ensure easy access, include at least one step-less, ground level entrance. Wider hallways and doorways make for easy passage both inside and to the outside, whether you’re mobile or not.
Aging in place bathrooms are about accessibility and safety, but without sacrificing great looks.
- Doorways should be a minimum of 32 inches instead of the standard 24 to accommodate walkers and/or wheelchairs.
- A curbless shower with a bench and grab bars presents trips, slips and falls. Envisioning the white plastic hospital look? Benches can be made of a beautiful wood or ceramic tile. Grab bars for the home come in brushed nickel, bronze, or chrome.
- Consider a taller-than-average toilet model and install at least one grab bar next to it. There are hundreds of attractive grab bars to choose from, and most can double as a towel rack.
You also don’t have to sacrifice your dream of a gourmet kitchen. Incorporating universal design is about adding convenience and safety. From flooring to countertops, think in terms of what will make for a modern yet safe experience.
- Whereas tile can be difficult to stand on for long periods of time, vinyl, wood, linoleum, and cork flooring are all kinder to your hips and back.
- Seated work spaces also help you get off your feet.
- Look for appliances that are easier to use if you’re incapacitated or in a wheelchair. Double-door refrigerators, a countertop or lower built-in microwave, and a separate cooktop and built-in oven are all more accessible.
- Install lighting under cabinets and counters to accommodate vision problems, and put outlets along the backsplash and in other convenient wall locations to avoid having to reach down to plug something in.
Don’t Sacrifice Lifestyle or Luxury
Aging in place design does not mean giving up on the home of your dreams. No matter what your age, your home can be a beautiful space that your family will enjoy for generations. Function and beauty work together to make sure you sacrifice nothing in exchange for safety and accessibility. Properly executed universal design elements add value to your home now and eliminate future alterations to accommodate multigenerational households. If you’re ready to start designing your Northern VA custom home, or want to know more about the principles of aging in place design, schedule a conversation with us today.