We are fortunate enough to live in one of the best retirement states around, which makes living and aging in place an important topic for most homeowners. Americans today are more active than ever, and your home needs to be able to adapt to all of your life stages as your age.

A common misconception about aging in place is that the universal design principles used are only applicable for those homeowners with disabilities or mobility limitations. This is not true. 

The design principles enable your home to better adapt to your needs now, while being flexible in accommodating your needs down the road as your lifestyle evolves. 

At the end of the day, the determining factor of whether you can age in place in a safe manner boils down to the capability to maintain independence. Living in a home where you cannot safely prepare food in the kitchen or use the bathing facilities, whether fully mobile or with the use of a walker or other aid, diminishes your ability to be independent.

The cost of care facilities has skyrocketed over the years, making them unaffordable for many. And let’s face it, you’d rather be comfortable in your own surroundings anyhow. As your trusted aging-in-place expert, we’ve compiled the top design tips for your kitchen and bathroom to enable you to remain in your home for as long as possible.

Floor plan

Having the kitchen (and a dedicated bedroom) on the first floor is a must.

Don’t compromise your open space. ADA guidelines require 60-inch wide clearance in a three-sided or U-shaped kitchen for sufficient wheelchair access.

Widened doorways and hallways accommodate all types of transportation aid. The recommended width is 36 inches for ease of access.

 

Appliances for safety

and accessibility

Include appliances with clearly displayed labels and controls conveniently placed within reach.

Induction cooktops offer a safe cooking surface that heats the pan without leaving an unsafe hot cooktop.

Avoid over-the-stove microwaves that carry a risk of scalding and opt for placing it at a lower level that is more manageable.

 

Appropriate hardware

and fixtures

D-shaped handles and drawer pulls are the best hardware choices for anyone in the household with onset arthritis and are less likely to catch on clothing, which can cause unforeseen mishaps.

Grab bars in and near bathing areas, toilets, closets and storage areas where someone might need added stability or help pulling up to a standing position.

Include a hand-held shower head as part of your shower design for ease of reach from a seated position.

 

Seating 

A built-in bench or seat in the shower is beneficial to all members of the household who may not be able to stand for periods of time, are unstable on their feet or simply enjoy a convenient resting area.

Dual-height island countertops are a beneficial design option that you should discuss with your general contractor to fit the needs of all household members. Lower-height areas make it accessible from a wheelchair, while standard-height countertop areas can include dedicated seating.

Getting up and down from low-stature seating (or restroom facilities) can be tricky for those lacking balance and upper-body strength. Consider a comfort-height toilet (typically 2 to 3 inches taller than a standard toilet) for added accessibility.

Flooring

Walkers, wheelchairs and other aids can have difficulties rolling on (plush) carpet when compared to other flooring options.

Choose non-slip flooring options to avoid slips and falls in areas of the home that have the potential to get wet, such as the kitchen and bathrooms.

Eliminate rugs and other trip hazards from the home. Studies show that the risk of a fall is greater for women than men and that 2/3 of those who experience a fall will suffer another or a related hazard within the following six months’ time.

Curbless showers blend seamlessly with the floor of the bathroom and eliminate the shower entry barrier as a trip threat.

Making your home accessible not only benefits you and your family, but those who could suffer any temporary or long-term disability, as well as any guests in your home. The last thing anyone wants is not be able to continue living comfortably and safely within your own home. JN

 R.C. ‘Romey’ Romero is co-owner of Arizona’s home improvement radio program ‘Rosie on the House.’

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