By Leigh Smith | December 08, 2020
A basement lounge may become less practical as climbing up and down stairs becomes more difficult. A soak in the bathtub may sound luxurious, but it can be dangerous to get in and out of as our balance declines. Things as little as the finish of our floor can cause issues as our mobility declines. By thinking ahead, you can incorporate principles of universal design into your home so you can age-in-place.
What is universal design? What is age-in-place?
Universal design allows occupants to interact with a space with as little difficulty as possible regardless of ability.
The CDC defines Age-In-Place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.”
Flooring is a crucial factor to consider when buying or remodeling a home. Your floor should be comfortable, easy to maintain, and safe to walk on. For example, while a plush, high-pile carpet may be luxurious and soft, it can be a tripping hazard for those who can’t pick their feet up to walk. These carpets can be hard to push wheels through as well.
Here are some things to consider when choosing a floor for aging-in-place.
Transitions: If you have multiple flooring types in your home, you should have a level transition from one floor to another. This is especially important in areas where soft surfaces meet hard surfaces. For areas where a level transition is not possible, be sure there is a clear difference between levels and support like a handrail.
Comfort: Luxury vinyl, laminate, and carpet are great flooring choices. They have a variety of underlayment options to improve underfoot comfort. This helps with joint pain, fatigue, and safety should you fall. If carpet is the preferred choice, choose a short pile that can easily be pushed across to minimize tripping hazards. These floors help with temperature comfort as well. Luxury vinyl and laminate aren’t as cold as ceramic or porcelain tile and hold warmth well.
Reflectance and Texture: A smooth, polished floor is very reflective, which can cause glare. Glare may not sound like a significant problem, but it can cause eye strain, headaches, and impaired vision. A polished floor is often slick, making it a hazard when wet. Choosing a textured floor with a matte or low-gloss finish will help diffuse lighting and reduce glare.
Patterns and Colors: Avoid designs that are too busy or complicated that could cause depth perception challenges. If there is a change in flooring material or level, contrasting patterns or colors can help differentiate the change.
Let’s look at two important rooms in the home and age-in-place design considerations.