Incorporating Aging-in-Place Features

When you buy a home, you establish roots there. You host Christmas dinner, raise children and watch grandchildren, experience loss, and celebrate birthdays. As you age, the thought of leaving your home for an unfamiliar space may be a constant source of anxiety. Still, your second-floor bedroom, shower without a grab bar, and island with sharp corners can become a danger to your safety. Appliances, floor plans, and fixtures can support your mobility and independence as you age or they can obstruct it. Custom homes give you the opportunity to design a space that satisfies your style while choosing features that age with you.

Aging-in-place features help to lengthen a homeowners’ ability to live independently and safely in their own home. Understanding aging-in-place features during the design and building process can prolong difficult decisions in the future. When you purchase a pre-built home, you may encounter design elements you will need to renovate in the future to make your home safe as you age. Custom homes, on the other hand, give you the opportunity to start from the ground up and design a home that fits your current and future needs. Here, we’ll discuss some important aspects to consider when building your forever home.

Working With a Custom Home Builder

When building and designing a custom home, collaborating with architects and designers is key. Their knowledge of aging-in-place features is just as important as your shared opinions on color scheme or functionality of spaces. Some architects have a certification for building custom homes that include aging-in-place features. The National Association of Home Builders calls them Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists (CAPS). As you evaluate a builder or designer, do some research beforehand to see if your prospective architect has achieved that certification or if they have past experience and a solid reputation for building custom homes with aging-in-place features. Come prepared with questions about aging-in-place you’ve researched to see if their skills and expertise align with your vision. Remember that your architect or designer is well-versed in this space, so listen to their advice while still voicing your fears and opinions.
Alongside your builder or designer, you can start with the big picture by examining layouts that support your independence now and in the future. Consider building a single-story house to eliminate stairs or put the master bedroom and your laundry room on the first floor to ensure these often-used rooms are all on the same level. Once you’ve found a blueprint that meets these needs, you can add no-step entries between rooms and allow for open-concept spaces and wide doorways to accommodate a walker or wheelchair.

Custom Bathrooms

Aging-in-place features are increasingly important in the bathroom where slipping and falling is common. You can choose a walk-in shower to minimize the risk of falls when getting in and out of the shower and include a seat if you are unable to stand throughout the entire shower. If you prefer a shower and tub combination, you can install a grab bar into the wall that matches your other fixtures to blend into your design and make this safety feature a permanent element in your bathroom.

Custom Kitchens

In the kitchen, choose appliances, countertops, and cabinets that can age with you. Start by widening the space between opposing surfaces and by lowering your countertops to accommodate a wheelchair or walker. You can then choose a countertop with rounded edges to lessen the risk of injury. When looking for appliances, keep accessibility and safety in mind. Placing your microwave on or under the countertop prevents you from lifting a heavy pot or plate of food over your head. Consider selecting an oven with French doors and a stove with control knobs on the side to avoid leaning over a hot oven door or open flames. These changes may seem minor in the beginning, but they can work together to create a space where you can continue cooking and hosting without fear.

Custom Lighting

In addition, taking extra time to select aging-in-place lighting fixtures and emphasize natural light throughout your home can save headaches in the future. Higher wattage bulbs brighten a space without adding more light fixtures that could make your rooms feel cluttered. Add lampshades or diffusers to control glare while not compromising a well-lit space. And don’t just settle for artificial light. Natural lighting can improve your mood and mental health while illuminating a space. You can install smart lighting and motorized blinds or shades so you can brighten your room at the press of a button.

Custom Flooring

Finally, some flooring is more friendly to you as you age than others. While a great option for the elderly, carpet is impractical for the kitchen or bathroom. Other types of flooring do not prevent injuries in a fall, but some can help to lessen the likelihood of the fall or of severe injury. Hardwood and laminate are smooth and easy to navigate with a wheelchair or walker, but they can be unforgiving in a fall. Although area rugs would cushion your fall, the corners are tripping hazards and should be avoided. To improve your safety, consider including a cork underlay for hardwood, laminate, or luxury vinyl flooring to provide some cushion. You can also add a non-slip lacquer finish to some hardwood flooring to increase safety. As you review these various types of flooring, lean on the knowledge of your custom home builder to determine which flooring type works best in your home.

Enjoy Your Forever Home as You Age

Your home should be a place of rest, especially while you age. As you think about building and designing your custom home, consider how aging-in-place features can ensure your home is truly your forever space. From flooring to lighting to appliances, you can make decisions with your custom home builder that will pay off in the years to come that will ensure your dignity and independence are not lost as you age.

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