At a certain age, the last thing we want is to be told we can no longer safely reside in our own homes. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the number one cause of injuries and deaths for older adults is falling. One of the most effective measures to prevent a fall and prolong the length of time we are able to “age in place” is to redesign our homes with safety in mind.
In this blog, we will provide you with an understanding of what it means to “age in place” and a list of design options to help you to age in your home for many years to come.
What Is Aging In Place?
Aging in place is defined by the CDC as:
This topic is fundamental because independence fosters a positive quality of life. One fall can often end up having costly effects—high hospital bills, loss of the ability to live on one’s own, or even loss of life. It is important to take preventive measures.
Luckily, there are resources available to aid in creating a home environment that is safe and convenient for those who wish to stay there for as long as possible. AgingInPlace.org is a free online resource with a wealth of knowledge and recommendations. And the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) provides certification to home builders, teaching them how to assess and remodel for safety and longevity.
With our research, using the above resources and more, we assembled a list of suggestions on how to improve your home design in order to age in place.
Home Design Checklist For Aging In Place
- It is preferable to keep the main living spaces on one floor with no steps between areas.
- Each room should have a 5-foot by 5-foot turn space.
- Non-shag carpeting with a firm pad is best for protection in case of a fall. Ensure the carpet pile is ½ inch or less for ease of use with a wheelchair or walker. If you are looking for carpet in Fort Collins or Loveland, Graham’s Flooring & Design would love to help you pick some out.
- Area rugs are to be avoided or should be secured with double-sided adhesive or slip-resistant backing.
- Widen the doorway and space to allow for a walker or wheelchair.
- Install a walk-in shower (at least 36-inches wide) with room for a bench to sit down.
- Apply slip-resistant patches to the shower floor instead of matting, as they are more functional.
- Install grab bars that can support up to 300 pounds around shower and toilet.
- Replace door handles with lever handles, these are simpler to operate with restricted movement and stiff hands.
- Bathroom flooring needs to be slip-resistant. Graham’s recommends vinyl flooring with a coefficient of friction (COF) of .42 or higher. For more information, contact us anytime.
- Flooring that has a contrasting color or outer border to signal a change in surface helps avoid slips and trips.
- Modify the arrangement of home appliances to make them more accessible. For the most convenience, group them together (opposite or adjacent to each other).
- Faucets should be lever handles or pedal-controlled.
- Consider lowering cabinetry by a few inches.
- Raise dishwasher, washer, and dryer 12–18 inches off the floor.
- Add slide-out slots or drawers to existing cabinets.
- And add roll-out trays and lazy susans in the base cabinets.
- Ensure that surfaces are easy to clean. Graham’s has several solid countertop options that are durable and tidy, and the absence of grout lines also cuts down on the danger of foodborne illness.
- If stairs are difficult to navigate, consider converting a main-floor space, like an office, into a bedroom.
- Avoid scatter rugs since they can be tripping hazards.
- Indoor and external walking surfaces need to be smooth, non-glare, and slip-resistant.
- Carpeting is a low-impact (reduces injuries from falling) flooring choice for stairways. Make sure the pile is ½ inch or less. Contact Graham’s for appropriate options.
- Install sturdy handrails.
- To highlight a shift in surface levels, use a color or texture contrast.
- Make staircases more visible with a contrast stripe at the top and bottom, a color difference between treads and risers, and ample lighting.
- Consider a lift, residential elevator, or moving all essential living spaces to the main floor for those unable to ascend stairs.
- Install rocker or touch light switches at all entrances and doorways. They should be no higher than 48-inches from the floor.
- Use nightlights in bathrooms and bedrooms.
- Lighting throughout should be plentiful and bright to avoid straining and accidents. Places of particular importance are stairways, entryways, and any area of surface change (from carpet to vinyl, for instance).
How Else Can One Prepare To Age In Place?
Organization is a big factor when it comes to aging in place. It is important to keep all living spaces uncluttered, convenient, and functional. This will cut down on tripping hazards, mobility issues, and confusion when moving about the home. The two most important spaces when it comes to organization are the kitchen and bathroom. See the links for some helpful tips!
Our list focuses on indoor design options, but there are many more features that can improve quality of life when aging in place. Be sure to explore the resources at NAHB and AgingInPlace.org as well as this handy blog from Carlson Projects, Inc. on preventing falls in the home.
We’d Love To Help!
Graham’s Flooring & Design is more than just your Northern Colorado carpet specialists, we honestly care about our older clients and want them to live their best and safest lives. Contact us today for a Free Design Consultation where we can discuss flooring and countertop options that will help you breathe a sigh of relief, knowing you’ve done all you can to make you or your loved one’s home safe.