Features for Comfortably Aging at Home
Retirement house plans allow active retired couples to enjoy their home now, aging at home as they advance in years, and disabled persons to live at home independently.
Universal design features are becoming more common in retirement homes for baby boomers and others who intend to stay in their homes as long as possible.
Let’s face it. We all are going to get older, sooner or later. And no one looks forward to the time when they have to leave their home to go into an assisted care facility. This often is because people can’t move around independently and take care of themselves at home.
There is, of course, an answer.
Save Money with Smart Retirement House Plans
If you are building a new log home or adding an addition to your existing home, you can incorporate some universal design features into your home. Well thought out retirement house plans will allow you to stay in your home easily, for many extra years.
Building these features into a new home, is very inexpensive.
On the other hand, to remodel your home later, to make it disability friendly, is much more difficult and will be a major expense.
Universal design products and features make it easy for anyone–young, old, disabled or not–to live easily in your home. And they do not make your home look different or odd.
In some cases, it may not be possible to make the changes necessary for a person to stay in his home after the home is built.
Rather than face the prospect of long term care later in life, why not consider incorporating aging in place features into your retirement house plans, so that you can enjoy it for many more years to come?
Aging in Home Features in Your Retirement House Plans
If your home is handicap-accessible, it will be comfortable for everyone—young people, aging couples and even visiting senior parents.
And when a young athlete has an injury or a middle aged person starts to feel the effects of arthritis, life will go on as usual.
These features make it possible for anyone to visit or live in your home:
One Floor Living
This is probably the first feature that you think of, when you consider retirement.
One floor living means that you have a first floor master bedroom and bath, laundry room and pantry.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t have a basement or a second floor—just that you could live on only one floor, without having to negotiate stairs.
The first floor should also be wheelchair accessible, meaning that doorway openings are 36” wide, halls are 42” wide and the kitchen allows space for a walker or a wheelchair.
It’s also nice when you are carrying a basket load of laundry to the Master Bedroom from the laundry room.
This is a luxury that you seldom find in a smaller retirement home. I recommend that you incorporate this into your plans, if your budget allows it.
Luxuriate in the warmth of the sauna after a day of sailing or working in the garden. And it will ease those sore muscles. However, it feels good even when you’re not sore.
A step-in low curb shower allows people with limited leg motion to shower.
I remember breaking my ankle about 15 years ago, on a trampoline. For weeks I struggled to shower in a standard shower stall, with a plastic trash bag on my leg, holding my ankle up in the air. Life doesn’t have to be this comical!
Consider a 5’ wide shower (the same size as a bathtub) with a molded seat, a grab bar and a hand held shower head for easy bathing (and to make shower cleaning easy).
You might also consider a custom tile curbless shower, which is also quite fashionable. This should be included in your building plans.
Lever Door Handles
Lever door handles are easy to open, especially for people who have arthritis or weak muscles. But, you don’t have to have a medical issue to appreciate them. Opening a door with a load of groceries just got easier.
If you look at the photo of the door above, you’ll see a lever handle.
Hand Rails on Both Sides of the Stairs
This is often included in universal design house plans so that a person going up or down the stairs has plenty of support, on either side.
Many older folks need to hold onto something when ascending or descending a stairway. Balance is often an issue.
Some people automatically use a particular hand – left or right. Support on either side of the stairway assures an older person more safety and less chance for falls.
This also gives you support when you are carrying an object up or down the stairs.
Hard Surface Floors in Common Areas
Hard surfaces make it easier for crutches, wheelchairs and walkers. And, older people with less strength or poor balance are less likely to fall.
Older people with poor balance or sense of their position in space can easily trip on a rug or slip on a throw rug.
Good flooring choices include wood floors, tile floors and vinyl flooring.
Kitchen Cabinet Pull Out Racks
Slide out trays help an older person access items without getting down onto the floor. Slide out shelves make it easier to access everything in your kitchen!
Nothing is worse than crawling on the floor (and pulling everything out of the cabinet) to get something in the back of the cabinet.
Most people, at some point, just disregard anything that is so difficult to reach, so they never eat it if it’s food, and they never use it if it’s a cooking tool.
Pull out racks make it easy to access everything in your cupboards, even from a wheelchair.
Whirlpool Jetted Bathtub
Have a bad back? Or, do you sometimes overdo things in a basketball game with the guys?
If you love to soak your aches and pains (and stressors) away, consider a whirlpool jetted bathtub.
Of course, this is not essential for aging in place, but it is a nice feature.
Make sure you have counter space close to the refrigerator, oven and microwave, so that if you have poor balance or weak muscles, you can set items on the counter.
Kohler Comfort Height Toilets
This type toilet is taller than standard size, and these toilets are easy on knees and hips.
Convenience in Technology
Consider including hard wired smoke detectors, especially if you’re one of those people who forget to change the batteries.
And, if you don’t like to get up to a cold house (but enjoy sleeping in a cool room), include a programmable thermostat in your plans.
You can set it to warm up the house before you get up in the morning, but you’ll still save on energy with a lower setting over night.
How Accessible is the House?
You should have only one or two steps to enter the home.
This makes it easy to add a ramp, if you ever need it. And it eliminates the need for a long ramp that takes up half the yard and is very obvious from the outside.
Even if you never need a ramp, a small number of steps will be welcoming for your older visiting friends.
Consider making your home as maintenance free as possible, both inside and outside.
If you are going to be retired, you want to spend most of your time having fun—not maintaining your home!
Last, but not least, this is the time to downsize. Why clean and maintain a large house when you only use a few rooms in it?
You no longer need rooms for each of your children. If you have a guest room or two, use them for other activities, like sewing or an office.