Home Accessibility: A Growing Trend

By Cheryl Proska

Is your home accessible enough to support you through your aging process?

Home accessibility is a recent trend that is gaining popularity among those looking to purchase or remodel a home. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) surveyed residential architects and found two-thirds of respondents said in-home accessibility features, like wider hallways, fewer steps, ramps, etc., are the most popular new trend with their customers. While it’s a new concept to many, Friends Life Care has been chartering this territory for its members for quite some time.

The concept of in-home accessibility is also referred to as “universal design” and “aging in place.” The Principles of Universal Design defines the concept as “the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size and ability.”

So- why are the concepts of universal design and home accessibility growing in demand?

SeniorAdvisor.com reported the following: “In less than 20 years, a third of US households will be led by an adult over 65, but more than 95% of US homes lack aging-in-place features to make them safe and accessible for wheelchair users and seniors with other mobility challenges.” Since more and more seniors are looking to age in place, in their homes, they need to make sure they have a home that will allow them to do so.

Are you looking to embrace a more universal design for your current home? Or are you shopping for a home that will be more accessible to grow into?  Membership with Friends Life Care includes a full in-home consultation to help you create the most accessible living solution possible. These usable and innovative solutions can accommodate your changing needs and allow you to remain safe while living independently.

Not yet a member of Friends Life Care? Our team of experts provides a for-fee service for individuals who are not yet members but would like to get started with home modifications.

Wondering if you could use some help making your home, or the home of a loved one more accessible? The Washington Post published the following list of recommendations on age-proofing your home.

Let’s take a tour of the house:

Entrances: Make them easy to get in and out of your house with groceries, a baby or a walker. Aim for one or more entrances without steps to offer convenience and unlimited access for family, guests and elderly adults. Consider adding ramps where appropriate.

Bathrooms: Design the bathroom for convenience and to help prevent falls. Consider what you, your family or a visitor using a wheelchair might need to get around. Make sure the walls can accommodate handle bars, and that the sink, shower and toilet are accessible to people of all ages, heights and mobility. A door opening of at least 32 inches allows better access, and a curbless walk-in shower area is ideal.

home accessibility kitchenKitchen: The kitchen is where people tend to invest most renovation dollars. Strive for an open design and varied counter heights (between 32 inches and 42 inches) to make it usable for various ages and abilities. Make storage accessible with pullout shelves and open shelving. Have a good blend of natural and artificial light for aesthetics as well as safety and convenience.

Open design: The layout is popular for many reasons. It allows better flow of family and guests, presents fewer hallways and doors to navigate, offers greater freedom of movement and more flexibility in furniture layout, and makes an interior space feel larger. Sliding walls offer tremendous flexibility in allowing multiple uses for a single room.

Bedrooms: If you don’t have a bedroom on your first floor, consider adding one. This option works for multiple life stages: new baby, college student, empty-nesters and aging parents.

Windows: As we age, we need more light for reading and other tasks. Adding or enlarging windows is a terrific option. Windows connect us to nature and our community and allow people to easily watch their children and pets in the yard. Blinds or draperies offer a way to manage privacy and level of sunlight.

Outdoors: Features such as covered entrances, wraparound decks and planters or container gardens help connect a home to the neighborhood and become natural extensions of the home. A wraparound deck, level with the first floor, allows access to each entrance and fosters a sense of community. Covered entrances prevent water and snow buildup on porches and provide protection for all family members entering and exiting the home in all weather. Gardens are aesthetically pleasing, can be therapeutic and can help provide food for a meal.

Smaller homes: “Tiny House” isn’t just a TV show but also a growing trend. California has removed several barriers and fees to encourage homeowners to add “accessory dwelling units” to their properties. Look for this phenomenon to gain momentum, offering flexibility for adult children and retirees.

home accessibility _ DoorOutlets, switches and doorknobs: Place outlets and switches at optimal heights and locations. Consider putting them where they can be reached while seated and by people of varying heights. Light switches that don’t require pinching or grasping will be easier to use. Doors that have lever hardware instead of knobs are easier to manipulate with a palm, closed fist or elbow when hands are full, injured or arthritic.

Be inventive: Think about your lifestyle and priorities and make innovative adjustments accordingly. What space aren’t you using that can be turned into something that makes your house even more of a home? Turn an outdated carport into additional living space or transform an unused bedroom or formal dining room into entertainment/living space that better suits your lifestyle.

You can do this in stages

You can complete some of the simpler modifications over time without being too involved or expensive; like switching door knobs and light switches and adding additional lighting for safety. While comprehensive, this list does not cover all considerations when determining if your home is accessible enough to age in. Even if you think you’re years away from needing home modifications, it’s good to plan ahead and know what you need to do for when that time comes. This is just another benefit of a Friends Life Care membership – for more information you can reach us at 215-628-8964 or visit us here.

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