Designing for a homeowner who wants their retirement home to allow them to age in place comfortably requires special attention to amenities, flow, and small details. You can improve the livability of a home for now and the future by taking into account these needs and during construction planning future modifications that may need to be made.
“You have to talk about things that a lot of people don’t want to talk about. People feel ill at ease talking about what might happen to them as they are aging … You have to take it out of the abstract and make it practical.”
Rachel Burton, Architect
Specializing in Aging in Place
Architectural Design for Aging in Place
Thoughtfully planned cabinetry can help make things more easily accessible. Full-length pullout shelving systems, for example, require less reach and climbing. Higher countertops in kitchens and bathrooms decrease strain on the back. Raised dishwashers and above-counter ovens in the kitchen that decrease the amount of bending over. Items like induction cooktops instead of gas increase safety. Doors with lever handles instead of knobs require no torque and less strength to open; similar kinds of hardware on cabinets also improve usability. No-slip surfaces are also key, for example, the kitchen floor in this home is made of cork to decrease strain on the back.
Lighting has become better thought out, both background and focused. Clients can have brighter lights and more of them: shafts of light on spaces they will occupy routinely, under- and over-counter lighting in bathrooms and kitchens, and even lights in drawers. Sensor lighting can be used to guides you from the bedroom to the bathroom at night. Lights are also inset under the bathroom counter.
Toilets are now taller and nice-looking safety rails are common. We routinely incorporate blocks into the framing of bathrooms so they can be easily retrofitted with grab bars by the bathtub or toilet. Our client already has several. She also enjoys sitting on the wide ledge in her steam shower after long swims.
“I absolutely adore my house,” says the homeowner. “It is a perfect match for my needs. … It is open, welcoming, and yet very practical — now, and for down the road.”