A few years ago, my parents started making changes to their house. They are in their mid-60’s and planning for retirement age and beyond, with a goal of staying in their home for as long as they can.
To learn what we can do to design our home for aging in place, we turned to Certified Aging in Place (CAPS) contractor Mark Mackmiller. Mark owns Mackmiller Design & Build, an Eden Prairie company and one of the few CAPS certified contractors in the Twin Cities. As a certified Master Certified Remodeler and Certified Kitchen Bath Contractor, Mark went through rigorous training and certification to become CAPS certified.
Mark shares, “Many people look to downsize to one level at a certain age. That can mean moving away from friends, their church and favorite retailers. Often, they realize that they love the neighborhood and look at options for aging in place in the home they are in.”
Specific ideas for when it comes to designing for the future always include making sure you can enjoy the changes today. For instance, some of the bathroom options that you can enjoy right away might include a barrier free showers, which Mark says are larger in size is very popular. “These allow for the eventuality if you need a wheelchair or walker down the road.”
Mark advises adding backing to walls behind showers and tubs to allow for grab bars to be added in the future. “Grab bars used to have a very institutional look to them, but now feature fashionable designs to blend into the decor.” A higher toilet and the option to add a bidet are also good options. All you need for a bidet is an outlet behind the toilet for a plug in.
Door width for rooms and closets should be considered for any aging in place design. You have some options; replace the door with a wider door or add swing-out hinges that allow the door to come even with the casing, giving you more room through the door. A quick fix is to change doorknobs from round to lever. Lever handles are easier to open when your hands are full of groceries or you are carrying kids – or if you develop arthritis.
Lighting is important. When we age, our vision become troublesome and having brightly lighted rooms and hallways helps us avoid trip hazards. Adding LED lights and under cabinet lights are a must in the kitchen. Other things to consider for a kitchen remodel are a stove with knobs on the front, multiple level countertops and contrasting colors for counter and cabinets. “Our depth perception reduces with age and the white on white trend can make is challenging in later years.” Colors also impact our mood. Yellows is thought to give us energy and blues to bring calmness. Keep this in mind next time you paint.
Evaluating trip hazards throughout the house is key. Mark suggests looking at contrasting colors for the last step of a stair and the floor and make sure the transition is well illuminated. If stairs become a challenge, there are options available such as interior or exterior elevators, telecab and stair chairs. A Certified Aging in Place contractor can discuss options with you. If your current house is a multi-level house, evaluate whether a room in your house is used infrequently and, if so, consider making it a main level bedroom and bathroom. Aging can make it challenging to bend over, so consider adding outlets 18-20” from the floor.
Mark is a fan of Smart Technology for aging in place design. He recommends smart doorbells, allowing you to see who is at the door on your phone, both for safety and convenience. You can also install and run apps on your phone to control your thermostat, drapery, lighting and more. He also suggests that you get in the habit now of always carrying your phone with you in case of emergency as you age.
Outdoor home design is important to an aging in place plan. The most important outdoor tip is to make sure that your house number is well lit and visible from the street. Easy to read house numbers make it easy for visitors and emergency personnel to find you quickly if you need them. To make stairs and entrances less slippery there are spray-on coatings available. Landscaping can minimize the footprint of a front door ramp. Having good outdoor lighting is important to prevent falls as well as safety.
Mark also suggest having a home maintenance plan in place. “Work with a handyman or contractor you trust and have them come annually to walk through the house to see what needs to be done. This way issues can be caught before they become a problem.”
If you are considering a remodel and plan on staying in your house, it might be worth contacting a CAPS certified contractor to learn more about aging in place.
Mark Mackmiller can be reached at 952-949-8600 and at http://www.mackmiller.com.
Grab bars used to have a very institutional look to them, but now feature fashionable designs
Our depth perception reduces with age and the white on white trend can make is challenging