A Tour Through the Accessible Home: What to Consider as You Age in Place

  |  February 24, 2016

These days, more and more adults are choosing to stay in their homes longer—a cultural shift commonly referred to as “aging in place.” While this is a great option for maintaining independence and quality of life, there are certain details you’ll want to consider to make sure your home remains safe and accessible.

Though your specific accommodations and renovations will depend on your individual health and home, we thought we’d take you on a short tour to help you see what you can expect from an accessible home. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get started.

Analyzing Your Entranceway

permanent ramp to front doorFirst thing’s first: if you plan to age in place, you need to make sure you can safely enter and exit your home. After all, what’s the point of maintaining your independence if you can’t come and go as you please?

The entranceway to our accessible home may have a few stairs to climb, but those stairs are definitely reinforced with strong railings—potentially one on each side for added stability. There’s also probably an additional grab bar at the top of the landing just in case you need to increase your balance while you look for your keys. And you definitely don’t have to worry about fumbling in the dark, thanks to motion detector lights that illuminate the whole area.

Once we enter the home, we also won’t have to worry about any tripping hazards. In addition to utilizing a thin, simple doormat, any and all runners or rugs are secured with two-sided tape or taken out entirely. And remember that tricky threshold between the hardwood of the hallway and the carpet of the living room that used to pose a tripping hazard? Don’t worry—we removed it.

As you move through the rooms of the home, you can rest assured that you’ll find a clear path and easy transitions. We’ve already thoroughly de-cluttered the space and rearranged furniture for easier movements.

Now, let’s move on to arguably one of the most important rooms of your home, but certainly the least glamorous: the bathroom.

Maintaining Bathroom Independence

DSC_0058 We all know the bathroom poses one of the biggest challenges to aging adults. While it’s an important space for independence and modesty, it can also quickly become a slippery hazard.

Luckily, the accessible bathroom in our home is prepared for these potential dangers. Thanks to the widened doorway, you can easily enter with a walking aide without having to shuffle sideways. And the newly upgraded adult height toilet makes sitting down and standing back up much more comfortable.

As for those aforementioned slippery issues, grab bars on the inside and outside of the shower—as well as alongside the toilet—give you the stability you need when navigating wet tile with bare feet. Oh, and speaking of tile, we went ahead and replaced that boring old white tile with a patterned design that your eyes will be able to more easily recognize as you age, which makes transitioning from different types of flooring safer. This is especially helpful for your zero-entry shower. That’s right: with no pesky tub to step into or dangerous ledge to avoid, you can just stroll (or roll!) on in.

But enough about bathroom business. Let’s move on to the place in your home where comfort is key: your bedroom.

Creating a Safe Sleep Oasis

Your bedroom has hopefully always been a place of rest and relaxation—and that shouldn’t have to change as you age. With just a few tweaks and additions, you can continue sleeping soundly.

To start, let’s consider the place where you spend the most amount of time in your bedroom: your bed. We replaced that old squishy mattress with a new, firmer version to make it easier to get out of bed in the morning. You can also reach for carefully positioned grab bars to help you transition from bed to floor. We used the model that slips underneath your mattress, but there’s also the option of a mobile ratcheting bar that attaches to the floor and ceiling.

Of course, we know you want to do more in your home than simply sleep and shower. Follow the tour into the most popular gathering point of every home: the kitchen.

Comfortably Cooking and Entertaining

DSC_0076 The main concern with your kitchen as you age in place is your continued ability to access any necessities and safely and comfortably perform any cooking or cleaning responsibilities.

To make these tasks easier, we installed drawers in the cabinets. That way, you won’t have to bend down and search in a dark cabinet. We’ve also changed out the cabinet pulls to be larger and easier to grab.

(Down the line, we may also consider raising the height of the countertops and sink to make cooking and cleaning more accessible. This small alteration could allow you to stand in place more comfortably for longer periods of time.)

A personal decision you’ll have to make in your own home is where you choose to sit and eat. There are merits to both stools and chairs depending on your stability needs, so you’ll have to determine what works best for you.

Now that we’ve highlighted the main areas of your home, here are a few other updates included in our ideal accessible home:

  • The majority of the living spaces located on the first floor. (If our accessible home does have stairs, we would make sure the staircase was equipped with a double railing.)
  • Light switches installed at the beginning and end of the hallway to make turning lights on and off easy.
  • Improved lighting, in general—including, but not limited to, battery powered LED motion sensitive lights that can easily stick on the wall.

And that concludes our tour! Thanks for coming along and feel free to use this example of a model accessible home to begin thinking about how you can make your home more aging in place friendly.