Stir Up Your Home For Better Aging
There are are a number of design changes you can “stir up” in your current home to make it safe for you as you grow older.
You’ve been in your home for 25 plus years and want to age in your place. You might have arthritic hands or vision problems, but you are still kicking it. You’re still active and engaged in the community.
In order to continue to stay put, you will need some updating to improve the safety and function of your home. While it will be fun picking out new fixtures and decor, your priority should be on improving your home’s safety.
“The goal is to create an environment that will foster a sense of safety and well being,” says Joan Waddell, certified interior designer and principal of her firm, J. Waddell Interiors. “It’s important to address the whole person, not just their physical health — their capabilities and limitations — but their mental health as well.”
A designer who is familiar with design codes can perform a safety scan of your home. You may have doorways that are too narrow for a walker, counters that are too low, lighting that is too dim, or flooring that is slippery.
“Your limitations might be more pronounced as you get older,” Joan says. “So you want to retro fit so that you are taking care of problems that may crop up 10 years from now. That will determine if you can stay in your home for 5 or 10 or 20 more years.”
There are a number of basic design changes that you can tackle, such as changing out kitchen cabinet knobs for D-shaped handles, which are easier on arthritic hands, or replacing flick light switches with paddle switches.
But with the bathroom potentially containing the most hazards, Joan says, “I would address the bathroom first, and in doing so I would be prepared to totally renovate it,” Joan says. “If it requires tearing it out to create a safer zone, it’s important to do that.”
By the time you tear out the slippery tile floors, put in a comfort-height toilet, install a higher-height vanity, replace the tub with a curbless shower, add safety bars, widen the doorway for wheelchair access, change lighting fixtures, and switch out faucet knobs for faucet levers, you’ve done a full renovation, she says.
“This is a huge topic in my industry,” Joan says. “We take continuing education classes on this all the time.”
Create an environment of safety in your home as you age in place.