By the time you finish reading this article, you’ll be a few minutes older. A relatively new term in the design world is “aging in place.” And it’s exactly that: growing older in your own home comfortably and safely. Here are 12 essentials of universal design that you can include in your house to help keep it accessible, safe and stylish for your life ahead.
1. Curbless showers. Whether you’ll need a walker or a wheelchair to get around, or if your condition simply limits comfortable mobility, a curbless shower makes transitioning in and out of the shower easy and safe. Before you proceed, you’ll want to hire a professional contractor who understands the principles of proper slope on an otherwise flat bathroom floor. You’ll need to ensure that proper waterproofing is implemented under the tiles and make provisions to allow for the drain within your level floor.
Bonus tip: If you’re proceeding with this project, why not consider in-floor heating as well?
2. Bathroom benches. You don’t have to be beyond retirement to appreciate a bench in your washroom, whether in your shower or at your sink. It permits you to go through your typical routine safely and comfortably. There are many ways to include such a fixture without making it seem as though it’s intended to address a disability. Whether you choose a wall-hung bench that can fold up in tight spaces or a built-in bench, the same principles apply in a wet environment: proper waterproofing and using moisture-resistant materials like teak, cedar or plastic.
3. Handheld showers. Another important thing to incorporate close to your shower bench is a handheld shower. With a proper shower diverter, you can easily redirect the water flow from the shower head to a handheld shower. This will come in handy if you need to sit on your bench while showering.
4. Grab bars. Designers and manufacturers have embraced the idea of aging in place, and today there is a plethora of universally accessible fixtures that are sleek and clean, and that suggest a sense of style rather than scream about their function. The appearance of your grab bars may be important to you if you want to incorporate them in your renovation but aren’t at the stage where you necessarily need them.
Safety tip: Ensure that there is proper plywood blocking in the wall before installing grab bars, and don’t ever hold on to towel bars or soap dishes for support.
5. Railings for steps. If you can’t incorporate a safe and seamless transition into your shower or bathtub because of the existing condition of your house, then consider a chic railing. These can be custom-designed by any railing company.
6. Door levers. One of the most common conditions we face as we age is arthritis. It can be extremely painful and limit our mobility to such an extent that grasping knobs becomes impossible. Consider replacing doorknobs with levers, which require less gripping action. Likewise, think about swapping out little cabinet knobs for pulls that have lots of room for you to slip your hand into.
7. Lever faucets. Just as with door levers, there are tons of options when it comes to lever-arm faucets. Turning the faucet on and off, along with adjusting the temperature, can be easily controlled with just one element: the lever.
8. Touchless faucets. This is another great option to incorporate in your home as you age. It’s a cool feature to show off when guests show up too.
9. Pullouts. Like levers, pullouts aren’t intended exclusively for the aging homeowner; they’re a clever way of making access easy for everyone. Besides being convenient, pullout drawers put less strain on your back and knees.
10. Smart appliances. Many of today’s home appliances have evolved so that they can be controlled electronically, remotely and with more functions than the average homeowner even realizes. The intention of smart appliances is to make life easier. But more important, they can make life safer by letting you know when you’ve left something on or open by accident.
11. Stair lights. Another safety element is stair lights. I recommend installing them on a sensor so that they turn on automatically whenever you approach your stairs.
12. Elevators. Although installing an elevator can be a complicated and costly undertaking, it can allow access to a multilevel home for years to come. Budget options are out there, with the price ranging from $25,000 to $80,000.