Buying a home is a considerable investment and can be an even greater investment if you remodel. You want to spend as many years in your home as you can. However, as we age, our home may not be as accommodating as it once was. Our needs and abilities change.
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.
Undercabinet Lighting: Undercabinet lighting is excellent for those who love to cook or work in the kitchen. Adding task lighting helps with reading cookbooks, recipe cards, labels on utensils, and illuminating your workspace for safe cooking.
Appliances: Your major appliances should have easy to reach controls, preferably at the front edge or on the front face. By having controls at the front of the device, you eliminate the risk of burning yourself from reaching over a hot stovetop. If you have a microwave, consider putting it at counter height or below. This adjustment can benefit those in a seated position, children who can’t reach above the counter, and those who can’t lift above their head.
Cabinets and Drawers: Having easily accessible cabinets (upper and lower) is essential for aging-in-place design. Upper cabinets can be made more accessible with pull out shelving solutions and open-face design. For lower cabinets, drawers are much easier to use than traditional shelving.
Countertops: Having multi-level countertops can allow users to sit or stand when completing different tasks. When deciding on the edge profile, choose rounded edges to help prevent injuries.
Sink: Touchless faucets are great additions to your kitchen sink, especially if they have a removable nozzle. The next best thing would be a faucet with lever handles. A shallow sink is more practical for someone unable to bend down or reach into a deep sink and can help prevent injuries.
Walk-in shower: Walk-in showers are sleek and reduce tripping hazards. Anyone can use a curbless shower. Adding a proper seat in the shower can help those who can’t stand or are fatigued easily.
Grab bars: Grab bars are vital to have around areas like tubs, showers, and toilets. If you don’t want to place a grab bar in your bathroom immediately, that’s okay! You can put reinforcement in place behind your walls so you can add bars later without having to destroy your wall.
Lighting: Having lighting above your mirror and on the sides of the mirror provides ample light for getting ready. Incorporating sensor lighting around areas like the toilet, sink, and shower can help someone navigate the bathroom at night without fumbling around looking for a light switch.
Handheld shower head: Having a handheld showerhead can make using the shower much more comfortable and can be easier to adjust than trying to reach up and adjust a stationary showerhead.
Vanity: Consider a floating vanity or a free-standing vanity with open space under the sink. This is important for wheelchair users who need to get up close to the counter to comfortably reach the faucet. The vanity can have multiple height levels for various tasks and users.
Aging-in-place allows users to be independent and stay in their homes for as long as possible. By thinking ahead, you are allowing your future self and family to live comfortably. Take the time now to choose quality, comfortable flooring, and make improvements to your bathrooms and kitchen.
QUESTIONS ABOUT FLOORING?