Unassisted Living or Active Aging In-Place Ideas—Moving Down or Staying Put.
Are you an “Active-Ager”? Do you wish to “age in place” and abhor the thought of entering senior housing? Do you wish to be a fully engaged senior staying connected to multi-generational friends neighbors? Yes? Then you must start thinking about “unassisted” living through smart technology and remodeling either your existing home or a move-down residence. This is all about making your home an “Active-Ager” friendly residence.
According to the Sonoma County Economic Development Board, over the next four years we are expecting a bigger shift toward citizens entering age 65 and over. These are the hoardes of Baby-Boomers who will not go “gentle into that good night.” Boomers number some 78 million and had been the largest generation until the “Millennial” generation eclipsed their size. Boomers were borne between1946 to 1964. Boomers are not accepting notions of traditional aging—no shawls, front porches and rockers for this age cohort. More like tie-die and rock ‘n roll. Boomers wish to remain active and engaged professionally and socially. AARP has found that older home owners overwhelmingly prefer to age-in-place or in very familiar settings like their current home. However, you will need to make modifications for safety and comfort so your home can meet your needs. This means living in your home safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age or ability level.
As you age-in place common barriers emerge. You have options for housing which can include your existing home or perhaps moving down to a single-level, smaller, easily managed house. If you move down obviously a single level home is desired and will present the least amount of barriers to overcome. But if you wish to live in your current 2-story home and have a bedroom on the ground floor this can work for you also. Many Realtors refer to this as “single-level living” meaning the Master bedroom is on the ground floor of the two-story home. The upper level can become a great area for extended, younger family members or in the future a live-in care giver. The biggest barriers are steps. An older “split-level” may present more issues for aging in place than you wish to take on.
Before you make any changes you should consider hiring the services of a designer/builder familiar with the needs of seniors who wish to age in place. Some builders have the designation, “Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS)” meaning they have had training in the unique needs of the older adult population with an emphasis on Aging-in-place home modifications. You can also check with our local North Coast Builders Exchange web site also.
Which improvements does your home need? We will just touch on some essential items. For a complete list I recommend the National Association of Home Builders “Aging in-Place building checklist”. It’s chock full of many ideas and questions. You can google the report. Here are just a few items to consider. This is from their report:
Exterior-Low-maintenance exterior (vinyl, brick) and Deck, patio, or balcony surfaces with no more than a half inch below interior floor levels if made of wood
Overall Floor Plan-Main living on a single story, including full bath with no steps between rooms/areas on the same level. 5-foot by 5-foot clear/turn space in living area, kitchen, a bedroom, and a bathroom for possible wheelchair needs.
Hallways--Minimum of 36-inches wide, wider preferred and well lit.
Entry-Accessible with at least one no-step entry with a cover. There needs to be 32-inches of clear width, which requires a 36-inch door (same for interior doors but with “lever” handles) with non-slip flooring in foyer
Kitchen and Laundry- Upper wall cabinetry three inches lower than conventional height with base cabinet with roll out trays and lazy susans plus pull-down shelving and glass-front cabinet doors.
Appliances- Easy to read controls, Washing machine and dryer raised 12-15 inches above floor, front loading laundry machines, microwave oven at counter height or in wall, side-by-side refrigerator/freezer, side-swing or wall oven, raised dishwasher with push-button controls and electric cook top with level burners for safety in transferring between the burners, front controls and downdraft feature to pull heat away from user; light to indicate when surface is hot. Also 30-inch by 48-inch clear space at appliances or 60-inch diameter clear space for turns
Bathroom-At least one wheelchair maneuverable bath on main level with 60-inch turning radius or acceptable T-turn space and 36-inch by 36-inch or 30-inch by 48-inch clear space
High tech systems-- could include a built-in pet feeding system, video phones, Intercom system, audible and visual strobe light system to indicate when the doorbell, telephone or smoke or CO2 detectors have been activated.
And while you are at it check the Stairways to see if they can handle lifts, elevators, and ramps. Other areas of concern would be electrical and lighting for safely navigating the new “age-less” home and adequate security/alarm features for falls or emergency use. Many of these items can be added as the elder ages in place. For the complete list I recommend gong to the National Association of Home Builders “Aging in-Place building checklist”.