If the concept of aging in place in your custom home is appealing, now’s the time to start planning. Design for aging-in-place, which is also called universal design, covers a variety of elements.
In and Around Your Custom Home
Include a no-step entry somewhere in your custom home design. Having one adjacent to the garage can be most helpful. A level entrance makes a warm welcome for people who use a wheelchair or walker, or who struggle with balance. To accommodate aging in place, doorways throughout your home should be at least 36 inches wide. Another plus: The extra width makes moving furniture or bulky items easier, too.
Hallways that are 48 inches wide accommodate wheelchairs or scooters. Widening all passages makes them feel luxurious, too, instead of cramped.
To make living in your home longer possible, plan your kitchen carefully. Consider adding some lowered-height countertops or an island space where someone who is seated can prepare meals. Choose drawers or pull-out shelves within cabinets to provide easy access to stored items.
For appliances, aim to place the microwave at counter height or lower. A side-by-side refrigerator may be more accessible for someone in a wheelchair. A hands-free faucet, with either a foot pedal or touch control, is simple to operate for everyone.
On the Level
If you plan to stay in your home for many years, opt for single-floor living. A first-floor master suite and laundry eliminates the need to go up and down stairs. To keep amenities on other levels accessible, you can create a shaft for a future elevator with careful placement of large closets.
Avoid sunken living areas if possible, as they can create a falling hazard.
One key to remaining at home as you age is to accommodate self-care. Plan now for a bathroom that works with you by installing a comfort-height toilet and plenty of overall and task lighting. Choose slip-resistant flooring and a curb-less or roll-in shower with a built-in seat. Install grab bars that also function as towel holders to avoid an “institutional” look. An adjustable height showerhead with a hand-held wand offers the flexibility you may need in years to come.
You’ll enjoy these added extras in your bathroom right away. You’ll also feel good knowing you’ve created a safe, functional space to use long-term.
The Little Things
Some seemingly small details can make a big difference in aging in place. As people age, arthritis can make turning door knobs, using small light switches or grasping cabinet knobs difficult. Lever-style door hardware, rocker light switches and D-shaped pulls on cabinets and drawers are good choices. Setting electrical wall outlets 18 to 24 inches from the floor makes them easy to reach.
To account for weaker vision, provide for plenty of overall lighting and good task lighting in places like the kitchen or desk areas. Built-in night-lighting in bathrooms, hallways and stairs can add extra safety.
Chair-rails or wainscoting that protrudes from walls can be used to aid in balance. In areas like Cincinnati where winter shoveling is a fact of life, consider installing a snow-melt system on driveways or sidewalks. The system clears snow and ice from these areas to help prevent falls.
A custom home can perfectly suit your individual needs now and in the future. We’d love to discuss your ideas with you. Contact us today to schedule an appointment in our office or on your site.