The catch phrase “age in place” is becoming a more and more prominent consideration in home building and remodeling design ideas. If you’ve not yet heard of it, the term refers to senior citizens who wish to continue living in their current home as opposed to moving to an assisted living facility as they age.
Recognizing this desire by the approximately 15-20% of Americans over age 65 living in their own home alone or with a spouse, designers have come up with some great ideas to help keep a high quality of life by providing functional household features. Some of these features include:
• Master suites on the first floor. Long a common feature in Texas, homes with master bedrooms and baths on the first floor of a house are an important feature for aging homeowners who may experience difficulty climbing stairs. Some mid-size and larger homes are now incorporating a “mother-in-law’s suite” on the first floor as well, which basically creates a double-master on the first floor.
• Zero-threshold shower. Slip and fall accidents are a big risk for elderly people and removing the ledge or step into the shower is one way to help reduce this risk. Existing shower stalls can be remodeled with a gently-sloped floor to keep water inside without having to step over the ledge. New homes are currently being built with this feature and some high-end homes have a walk in shower with openings on two sides. Hand-held faucets and fixtures facilitate seated bathing and have much more stylish designs these days.
• Lowered kitchen surfaces. As we age, reaching higher countertops and cooking surfaces may become more difficult. By lowering counters and stoves, seniors will be able to enjoy cooking more comfortably.
• Height-appropriate kitchen appliances. Adding “pocket microwaves” that sit underneath counters and using refrigerators with either side-by-side or underneath freezers will make food preparation easier. Reaching down to load the dishwasher can be uncomfortable, so raised dishwashers can be installed to alleviate this problem. Rolling shelf systems in lower-level cabinets will make storage areas more efficient and organized.
With a few modifications, seniors can enjoy living in their homes longer and longer. Be sure to ask your builder or realtor about adding these features to your home.