These days the older generation is the country’s fastest growing demographic. At the same time, staying in your home as you get older has been found to increase your overall health and happiness. But some homes aren’t always the most practical as you get older. But with just a few design tweaks your home can easily be transformed into somewhere safe, a place where you can stay longer and enjoy the same aesthetics you want when you renovate.
In 2009 the HAPPI Report made a list of suggestions to aid retirement and older living in the UK And there have been other studies across the world.
And such reports are not just about creating safer houses either. Designing age-friendly places means creating shared spaces to beat social exclusion too.
It may not be something you’re worried about right now but if you’re in your 50s and 60s it’s worth considering how a few changes can help keep you in your home as long as you want to be there. It’s more likely that you’ve considered over 50s plans and funeral finance, but even changing a texture to show a different level of floor can prevent a fall when you’re older.
Lighting and Electrics
When it comes to the interior’s design, think about making things easier as you get older. Try apps to control heating and lighting – as long as they can work on a tablet where they’ll be a decent size. Smartphones are probably too small for the particularly elderly or those with vision issues.
When it comes to lighting, simple changes include swapping out regular bulbs for brighter LEDs, which last longer. Choose lighting that directly lights up an area too. Not only do shadows hide trip hazards, but they can create depth perception issues for those with weaker sight.
A light switch near the bedroom door is normal but installing a second switch near the bed can help when it comes to lights out. Other changes such as raising electrical switches can help a lot.
Another good swap while you’re doing these little extras is to change door knobs for handles, which are easier to use if and when you get problems with movement.
Flooring and Carpets
Flooring is particularly important in preventing trip hazards. Opting for smooth flooring such as linoleum poses less chance of a person catching their foot and falling. But a key factor in safety is to avoid bold patterns which can hide changes in flooring level and where trips can happen.
Kitchen and Bathroom
Keeping storage low is a good idea. So no high, unreachable, cupboards. And nothing should be stored over the oven or hob. Having an area where you can sit down when you’re preparing food is a good idea too.
In the bathroom grab rails are useful, if not vital, and other changes such as walk-in showers and easily adjustable shower heads can make a huge difference. You might also opt for a shower seat. Set the door to open outwards so if there was a fall in the bathroom, anyone helping can still get access.
If you’re having an extension or renovating a retirement flat take into account getting as much natural light and ventilation as you can, and make the space easily changeable.
New homes and large scale renovations should be energy-efficient, well insulated and well ventilated. There should also be plenty of storage space outside for bikes and mobility aids.
Most problems for the elderly and those who are disabled or have impaired mobility in areas such as narrow entrances, narrow or difficult stairs and tricky steps. Steps can be replaced with smaller steps or gentle gradient ramps. Stairs can be made safer with handrails on both sides.
Where rugs are situated a simple safety measure is an ant-slip backing to prevent edges becoming a hazard or the rug itself sliding across the floor. Telephone extensions in the bedroom or other frequent use areas makes getting help easier.
Some of these design options may only be possible if you are having a new bathroom or kitchen, others are simple changes, inexpensive changes that can make a huge difference as you get older.