Custom Home Design for Aging in Place
No one relishes the prospect of having to move out of his or her home due to age-related health, mobility or dexterity issues. In fact, more than half of homeowners 60 and older say they intend to stay in their current homes indefinitely, according to a recent survey by Houzz. Fortunately for people who want to stay put, a range of custom home designs can make it easier to remain in your home as you grow older.
In fact, 60 percent of those who plan to age in place already made these renovations in 2014, and 52 percent plan to renovate this year, Houzz found. What’s more, if cost is what’s holding the handful of non-renovators back, targeting key areas like bathrooms and kitchens can improve a house’s long-term livability even on a modest budget, says Lee Saunders, founder of Adapted Living, a California-based company specializing in aging-in-place design work. Founded in 2007, the company has helped thousands of homeowners redesign their houses to facilitate aging in place.
“We’ve seen steadily increasing demand for this kind of design work and products,” Saunders says. “The growth in the industry and availability of products has been huge. Today, the biggest challenge we have is getting people to understand they don’t have to settle for an industrial or commercial look in order to renovate their homes for aging in place.”
Chris Peterson, a regional sales director with Saniflo, agrees. His company makes a number of above-floor plumbing options designed to work in spaces where traditional plumbing is problematic. As the aging-in-place trend has grown, the company has seen increased interest in its products among older homeowners who are renovating.
“Budget is typically a consideration for these types of projects and above-floor plumbing is often more cost-effective than traditional plumbing for homeowners who need to add or relocate a bathroom or reconfigure a kitchen,” Peterson says.
Homeowners can maximize the value of their dollars by focusing their aging-in-place design improvements on bathrooms and kitchens, Saunders adds.
Better function in bathrooms
Often when people develop mobility or dexterity issues, they find their existing bathrooms are not in a convenient location in the house, or aren’t configured with safety in mind. They may need to add a bathroom in a small space or reconfigure the ones they have. When renovating an existing bath or creating a new bathroom where one did not previously exist, homeowners should keep key considerations in mind.
Multiple light sources can help reduce glare and shadows — two dangerous visual effects in bathrooms, where most home falls occur. Flooring material should be slip-resistant and grab bars are essential in showers, bath tubs and near toilets. Shower heads should be on a slide bar that allows the spray to be raised or lowered depending on the needs and height of the user. Showers and faucets should be controlled by levers, rather than knobs, and all showers should have thermostatic controls to reduce the risk of burns.
Whether you’re adding a half bath in a corner of your master bedroom where no bathroom existed before, or replacing a high step-over tub with a roll-in shower, traditional plumbing can be costly — especially in homes with slab foundations and no readily accessible below-floor drainage. Saunders uses the Sanigrind Pro system by Saniflo to minimize the need to break through concrete. The product can handle drainage for a shower, sink and toilet.
Creating more usable kitchens
Kitchens are another high-utility and high-risk area of the home for seniors. Mobility and dexterity challenges can make everyday tasks like cooking and cleaning difficult to achieve in an ordinary kitchen.
Saunders recommends seniors focus on improvements to enhance accessibility, such as installing lifts for countertops, cabinets, cooktops and sinks. These electric lifts allow homeowners to adjust the height of key work areas depending on whether they’re sitting or standing while using the spot.
Above-floor plumbing can also be useful in kitchen renovations, where homeowners and designers desire a more open floor plan to accommodate wheelchair users. Above-floor plumbing allows you to relocate a sink or create an “island” without the expense of extensively replumbing the entire kitchen, Peterson notes.