It’s no secret that as we age, our physical needs change. To avoid accidents, like falls, older adults and their caretakers must consider what sort of modifications will be useful, especially if their mobility becomes limited. To make this process more manageable, we’ll highlight three areas of your home that may require upgrades, and design tips you can implement to make the areas more functional.
The living room is the heart of the home. It’s often the space families spend the most time in together. Therefore, it’s important that this room remain a safe haven. Generally speaking, the living room accommodates a couch, a coffee table, an entertainment center and some additional seating. The arrangement of these items, however, is more important than just aesthetic appeal when designing a home for individuals with limited mobility. While we tend to spend a lot of time relaxing, rather than moving about in the living room, it’s essential to keep the area decluttered and free from unnecessary objects that could lead to falls. Tripping hazards can be minimized through intentional flooring selections. Although carpets and rugs make for a cozier space, mats, rugs and uneven carpeting may create problems for those with limited mobility. Additionally, these textured fabrics can be difficult for those utilizing a wheelchair or motor scooter. Keep this space comfortable and functional with smooth flooring, easily accessible seating and minimal clutter.
We use our bathrooms for more than simply relieving ourselves. Bathing, grooming, dressing and other tasks we often perform daily in this space require functionality. Since bathrooms are considered one of the most hazardous rooms of a home, if not properly outfitted, it's important to consider the needs of individuals with limited mobility when designing both full and half baths. To avoid slips and falls, particularly when exiting the shower, consider non-slip floor options. Taking it a step further, walk-in showers are an ideal option in the event that a walker or wheelchair becomes necessary. To assist with balance, a grab bar near the shower and toilet may also be a helpful addition to this room.
As with the other rooms, the most important aspect of any kitchen design is functionality. For those with limited mobility, this is especially crucial and must be considered in both layout and appliance plans. Kitchen organization can often become an issue when items are stored out of reach, causing frustration and potential accidents. For those with decreased mobility, accessible storage through the use of baskets, magnetized storage units, and adjustable wall apparatuses can help create a safe and functional space. Less obvious areas that may require updates to better accommodate include lighting, outlets and general kitchen aids. Installing well-placed outlets, voice-activated light fixtures and investing in appliances and tools designed specifically for individuals with limited flexibility, dexterity and mobility can improve safety and overall usability.
Whether you are downsizing or remaining in your current home, ensuring safety and mobility is vital. So, be sure to plan ahead and invest the necessary time into designing a home that suits your specific needs and preferences for the present and future. You’ll also need to count the cost of some of these essential installations and upgrades, taking into consideration whether it’s best to use savings, apply for a home improvement loan, or seek out home improvement grants. Comfort and safety should not be compromised in your home, and proper design can help. Lastly, don’t procrastinate the process. If you do your best to apply the above suggestions, you’ll be well on your way to a happy elderhood.