a note from bill
there's no place like home when growing old
my current home is not conducive to someone with limited mobility. A temporary issue with a knee after surgery is only the tip of the iceberg; I am an architect, after all—I tend to coach my clients to think about how they might live in their homes in future years.
The term aging-in-place gets thrown around often on the topic of retirement. Fundamentally, it means staying in one’s own home permanently, rather than moving into assisted living. Experts have made contrasting conclusions regarding aging-in-place; some say the benefit outweighs the risks, and some say the complete opposite. But when we look at what older folks have to say, the message couldn’t be clearer: Most of us want to stay in our own homes. Of those aged fifty and older, 77% want to remain in their homes long term, and according to the same AARP study, that number has not changed in over a decade. The biggest pitfall of aging-in-place comes down to the home itself; many of our homes don’t accommodate the changes in needs that come with age. As we get older, upstairs bedrooms, bathrooms without grab bars, and steep flights of stairs can cause discomfort and even danger.
FIRST FLOOR, BEST FLOOR
First floor primary suites have become a trend in their own right, for this setup offers some separation between bustling kids’ bedrooms and can oftentimes feel like its own wing of the home. As we get older, we have even more reason to move the primary suite downstairs: damages from falls becomes a greater risk as we age. Consider converting an existing first floor space into an accessible bedroom and bath or think about a lift or elevator for safer access upstairs.
BE SAFE IN BATHROOMS
Studies show that nearly 80% of falls in the home occur in the bathroom, and as you age, the likelihood of a fall leading to serious injury grows exponentially. A walk-in shower or tub reduces tripping hazards and accommodates limited mobility. Other things like grab bars and brighter lighting will also help make your bathroom safer and easier to use.
RETHINK THE REACHING
When considering your home’s long term accessibility, note how often you need to reach up to grab something during the day. Reaching can become more difficult and uncomfortable as we age, so consider adding deep under-counter storage for dishes in your kitchen for easier access. In your closets, you can design for storage to be at eye-level or use pull-down rails.
EXTRA CARE FOR EXTERIORS
Even in single floor homes, you can find stairs—usually outside. Even two or three steps on the porch can grow into a discomfort, and none of us should let something like stairs prevent us from getting outside comfortably. Use the two R’s: railings and ramps. Railings are of use to all ages, especially on a rainy or icy day. Ramps might be helpful to you only in the future, but today they could help family or friends with limited mobility get into your home.
written by: bill styczynski
Bill Styczynski is the president of Studio21 Architects, as well as an architect in his own right. Every month, Bill writes an article for the Studio Pages newsletter about design topics that he believes will be informative, helpful reads for all of our clients, established and potential.