Careful Home Design Makes Aging in Place Possible

Home DecoratingBy Melinda Otlowski, Accessible Design Consultants

You, like most Americans, probably hope to lead an independent and active life in your own home for as long as possible.

According to the AARP, 85 percent of those older than 50 desire to grow old in their own homes. This common desire is rooted in our deep-seated human needs for comfort, security, independence and identity. Not only does “aging in place” answer fundamental emotional needs, it also makes financial sense.

Staying in your home, even with the help of a caregiver or home aide, is typically
more economical than moving to an assisted living facility or nursing home.

But as you age, you may be challenged to remain safely in your home. A primary obstacle to aging in place is often the physical design of your house: doorknobs become difficult to turn as arthritis sets in; a shower stall becomes hazardous as balance and strength wane; stairs become an obstacle as knees and hip joints deteriorate.

What can you do?

One solution is to renovate your home to make it more accessible as you age. A carefully designed living environment can keep you in your home and ease you through the transitions in physical ability that occur as you age. Some common home modifications include:

• creating a first-floor bedroom with accessible bathroom that includes a barrier-free shower

• building a ramped, covered, well-lighted entrance

• renovating a kitchen to include lower counter top heights and accessible cupboards and appliances

• widening doorways to accommodate wheelchairs

In addition to improving your ease of living, these renovations open up the space in your house, update materials and often increase the value of your home.

Demand for Accessible Design to Increase
More than other generations before them, baby boomers define successful old age as including lives full of physical and intellectual stimulation. A thoughtful and well-planned home renovation can support declining function while providing continued access to daily events, exercise and activities.

(Melinda Otlowski, our guest blogger, is a  registered architect and a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist from Accessible Design Consultants. She can be reached at (860) 919-1944.)

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