Interior design trends for aging in place

By Michele McGovern
September 20th, 2021 Health & Wellness No Comments

Aging in place feels better when your interior design fits your lifestyle.

Most older adults want to be surrounded in comfort, safety and beauty. Fortunately, that’s exactly what interior design calls for these days.

Even better, you can incorporate new trends into your current décor – so you don’t have to face a full-on renovation, which can be more stressful. Or, if you’re handy and enjoy do-it-yourself projects, you can even update or rejuvenate items you have and transform spaces.

First step: Declutter

“Clutter can affect your brain’s ability to concentrate and process information as well as have a strong effect on mood and self-esteem,” says Lori Ligorio, Owner of Caring Transitions of Scranton, citing research out of Stanford University. “Decluttering can help restore how your space is enjoyed.”

A few essential moves before you renovate:

  • Limit the space. Pick one room to start so you can clear it into other spaces and don’t become overwhelmed
  • Toss anything that’s broken, worn or a safety hazard, and
  • Donate items that will help others – such as furniture, clothing and household items that are in good shape but don’t fit in your new design scheme.

Make safety No. 1 priority

As you age in place, you want to ensure your space is safe. So when you update or transform pieces and spaces, keep safety and accessibility at the forefront of your plans.

General guidelines for living and dining spaces:

  • Maintain an open floor plan with few obstructions
  • Avoid throw rugs or anything that creates uneven floors
  • Plan more lighting than you think you need with longer lasting LED lights
  • Create no-step entries
  • Widen doorways to a minimum of 36 inches
  • Clear pathways between rooms in the absence of an open plan, and
  • Add lever style door handles for easier use.

General guidelines for kitchens. Install:

  • a shallow sink
  • hands-free faucet
  • pullout pantry
  • a stovetop with front-mounted controls
  • D-shaped cabinet pulls
  • countertops with rounded edges, and
  • a microwave at counter height.

General guidelines for bathrooms:

  • Install comfort height toilets or add seat extenders
  • Add drilled-in grab bars near toilet and in tub/shower
  • Install a shower seat or walk-in tub/shower
  • Add anti-slip coating in tub/shower, and
  • Install a handheld showerhead.

General guidelines for bedrooms:

  • Choose a lower-profile bed (about 22 inches from floor to top of mattress)
  • Install a phone (or overnight charger) beside bed
  • Maintain about three feet of clearance around bed
  • Install lighting in closet, and
  • if possible, add bedroom to main living level of home.

Have fun with design

Once you take care of function – safe and practical space – you can enjoy form – that’s the actual design. Create pieces and spaces you love and want to be in as you age in place.

Here are four trends to consider in your design:

  • Think au natural. Patterns and colors found in nature are contemporary and tend to stand the test of time, according to designers Dean Maddalena, president of studioSIX5, and LuAnn Holec, principal of Thoma-Holec Design in Senior Housing News. For instance, award winning designers increasingly use natural looking materials and fabrics with shapes and patterns like those you’d see in nature such as leaves and water. They also choose natural, neutral colors for walls and cabinetry. Then they accent those with brighter jewel tones, bringing the outside in.
  • Choose sturdy furniture. Whether you transform existing furniture, purchase new or build from ground-up, consider stability and ergonomics. Regardless of your style, you can make smart choices. For instance, you’ll want dining chairs with arms (for an assisted lift), and sofas and side chairs with firm cushioning.
  • Consider contrast. With contrasting colors you can build character and more safety into the design. Try side tables that contrast with the floor and other furniture. It’ll stand out in beauty and make it less of a tripping hazard. Add functional, safe storage, such as baskets under (to corral blankets) or on top (to corral remotes).
  • Focus on fabric functionality. Interior Designer Judith Clark suggests older adults consider fabrics that are easy to clean and water resistant. Once sterile and dull, those kinds of fabrics now come in a variety of stylish designs and colors for upholstery, window coverings and home accessories. They blend into updated homes, and many can be used in outdoor spaces, too.

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