There’s an interesting movement going on amongst baby boomers, one that actually isn’t about moving at all; but staying right where they are. Unlike generations before them, statistics show that instead of looking forward to moving into retirement communities, baby boomers are investing in renovation ideas that support their goals of aging in place.
The reality is, the potential here is big. In 2015, one in every seven Americans was 65 years of age or older, which is a 30 percent increase from 2005. That number is projected to more than double by 2060. So as this portion of our population is finding ways to stay in their homes as long as possible, they will be looking to professionals to update areas of their homes to allow for an easier lifestyle. From kitchen and bathroom remodels, to closet renovations, the addition of task lighting, grab bars, flooring updates and more, the baby boomer generation is looking for solutions to help make their homes safe and secure for as long as possible. Special design considerations that promote safety, accessibility and independence will give homeowners options as they age, while also adding value to their home.
In the Kitchen
One of the biggest challenges for seniors as they age in place has to do with mobility and visibility. Since this is a room where people tend to spend a large part of their time no matter what their age, it’s important to focus some attention here when considering an “aging in place” remodel. Experts recommend starting with creating extra room to move around. The home should have additional clearance around all doorways and walkways. Flooring is also important in the kitchen. In any space where plenty of light is necessary, a non-glare flooring material is beneficial, as is non-slip tile or cork floor coverings that can also prevent accidents and maintain a level of comfort for the feet. With cabinets, be sure to include under-cabinet lighting to provide more visibility in task areas.
Speaking of cabinets, this is one of the biggest items to consider when remodeling the kitchen. Cabinets should not be difficult to reach; in general upper cabinets should be placed around three inches lower than normal. Lower cabinets should include lots of drawers or pull-out shelf features that maximize easy to reach storage, while multi-level countertops are also convenient for sitting or standing in the kitchen. Shallow sinks with touch faucets; pull-out pantry shelves, and rounded edges are all additional items that will add value to an aging in place kitchen remodel.
In the Bathroom
Mobility is also a big challenge in the bathroom. Renovations such as comfort-height toilets, lower bathroom vanities and cabinets, and removing the tub to allow for a larger, no curb shower add safety and convenience in the bathroom. For someone who prefers to take baths, consider a walk-in-tub which eliminates the need for stepping into the tub.
When remodeling bathroom cabinets, there are several considerations that will help with comfort. Lower vanities with an area for seating provides options, while larger cabinets and drawers will help keep everything organized and easy to find. When choosing sinks and countertops, look to faucets with levers instead of knobs, and countertops that are easy to clean and darker in color than the cabinets so the edges are easily seen.
When replacing bathroom flooring, be sure to look for a flooring option that is slip-resistant, is smooth to walk over, and is easy to clean. Lighting is also often overlooked in a bathroom remodel, but is important when wanting to age in place. Overhead lights can be a challenge to change when they burn out, so add lighting that’s lower on the walls, under shelves or cabinets that provide light at night, and add a sensor light switch that automatically turn the lights on when motion is detected.
Some other home renovation ideas that are ideal for senior living include:
- Replacing all interior door knobs with levers
- Eliminating stairs and level any changes in the flooring where possible (think entry steps or those leading to the backyard)
- Widen hallways and doorways at least 36 inches
- Install automatic flushing mechanisms
- Lower wall light fixtures and add motions detectors to outside lighting
Replace carpeting or rugs with easy to maintain flooring options