Aging-in-place has been an increasingly important topic in the homebuilding and home renovation industry for a number of years. Is it something you should be concerned with? What if you’re really not “that” old? What is it and what does it mean for you?
Aging-in-Place: What Is It?
Aging may not be your favorite topic, but it’s something we all deal with at some point. What’s important is that you can safely age with style, grace, and comfort. And that’s really what’s behind the concept of aging in place (or universal design). The concept really comes down to three main components: Comfort, convenience, and safety.
- Comfort: Comfort becomes more important as we age. We put up with a lot of discomfort when we’re younger. It just doesn’t bother us. As we mature there is a natural desire to be a bit more The good news is that it’s possible to build features into our homes that make us more comfortable. And where can you be more comfortable than at home? This applies to daily tasks we perform (cooking and cleaning among other things) as well as overall comfort.
- Convenience: When we reach a certain age we want things to work more conveniently. We don’t want to struggle to reach items on high shelves. We don’t want to struggle with doorways or hallways that are too narrow. When it’s no longer convenient to reach above our heads to use the microwave, we want to make some changes.
- Safety: As we get older, being safe becomes more of an issue. Things that we never thought about before (tripping, stumbling, falling, etc.) become increasingly important. That can require steps that prevent those things from happening—whether it involves removing tripping hazards, improving visibility, or simply making simple tasks easier.
But We’re Really Not That Old!
One misconception about the whole “aging-in-place” phenomenon is that it’s something for really old people. It’s not. Smart homeowners recognize that changes are coming and make changes before they really need them. They take pre-emptive measures before they really need to. They remove tripping dangers before they have a fall. They make adjustments to their living arrangements before there’s an event that requires it.
The concept behind aging-in-place is to take steps now so that you can continue to enjoy living in your home for years to come. There’s another thing to consider. Your tolerance for disruption (and remodeling is, by nature, a somewhat disruptive process) is greater when you’re younger. As you get older, you will likely be less inclined to take on a project that will disrupt your home. The longer you wait, the harder it is to make changes—and the more disruptive those changes can be.
There is also a financial consideration. The cost of remodeling is unlikely to go down. If history is any indication, the price of materials and labor costs will continue to rise. Making the changes you’ll need in the future will probably never be as affordable as it is now.
What Aging-in-Place Can Look Like
Some homeowners are a little taken aback when they consider making changes to making changes to their homes to accommodate their changing needs as they age. There can be a mistaken impression that these changes may make their home look less elegant or welcoming to visitors. But aging in place really isn’t about turning your beautiful Naples home into an “old folks” home. Perhaps the best way to correct that impression is to actually show how beautiful and elegant the design can be.
Two of the most important spaces in your home when it comes to aging in place are your kitchen and your bathroom. Here’s a look at a few examples of how taking care of your changing needs can add a fresh and beautiful look to your home.
Here’s a look at an award-winning kitchen we designed and built recently. You’ll notice the ample spaces between the island and the cabinets along the wall. You may never need to use a walker or a wheelchair to get around, but the extra space will accommodate those needs should they arise. You can also see that there is plenty of light—making it easier to see for food preparation and casual dining at the island. In addition, the open floor plan makes it easier to move from one area to another without having obstacles in the way.
The bathroom is the room that often gets the most attention when it comes to aging-in-place. One of the challenges in designing for maturing adults is to eliminate tripping or falling, and bathrooms are one place where a lot of falls occur. But good aging-in-place design (or “universal design”) involves more than just sticking grab bars in the shower.
Here’s an example of a bathroom we remodeled in which the shower employs universal design to meet the needs of more mature adults. Notice that there is no lip or step required to walk into the shower. Yes, there are grab bars. Yes, there is a bench on which to sit. But the overall look and feel here is one of an elegant spa. There are also two showerheads. One is located overhead and one (with its own control) is a handheld showerhead that can be used when standing or sitting.
Here’s another Naples-area bathroom we remodeled that looks quite different. While this bathroom also features a shower that has no step, it offers other features as well. It is spacious and bright (taking advantage of natural light in this case). And the hardware on the sinks employs easy-to-turn levers (rather than knobs) that make controlling water flow easier. The toilet (while separated by a half wall) is easily accessible since there is no door with which to contend.
Again, these two examples take steps to accommodate the needs of more mature adults, but they don’t sacrifice beauty or style to do so.
More About Aging in Place
Naturally, there is more to the whole aging-in-place concept than simply making a few adjustments to your kitchen or bathroom. Here’s a helpful post that examines other areas in your Naples home that can make your home safer, more convenient, and safer for you as you mature.