Many of us that are looking back at age 50 are either planning to move into a new home or remodel ours for the changes taking place in our families and lifestyle. Many folks who move to San Luis Obispo County are not planning to move away. Even if you may relocate in the future, many of us have parents who move in with us to live out their later years. With good planning, a comfortable Aging in Place experience is manageable. It’s appropriate to make these plans when you remodel or build your home.
As of 2000, the US Census reported there were 35 million Americans over the age of 65. According to estimates, there will be approximately 71.5 million Americans over the age of 65 in thirty years. That number is more than twice what it was in 2000 and will represent nearly 20% of the entire projected U.S. population in 2030. Everyone goes through different changes as they get older but there are some basic considerations that are essential to making these changes positive.
First, consider how a person with restricted mobility will live in the home. Plan to place the bedroom and bathroom on the same floor as the kitchen and living area. The ground floor is best, but there is equipment that will take people up and down stairs with ease. Next, think about traveling from the bed to the bath to the kitchen to the exterior. Are the hallways large enough? Three feet six inches (3’6”) is the minimum but four feet (4’) is better. Are there any 90-degree turns along the pathway that will be used? If the hall is less than four feet it’s best to clip the inside corner, even if only by six inches. To insure a smooth path, all flooring should be flush with each other. Use a smooth surface such as tile, hard wood, or concrete (although this is hard and gets slippery if wet). Carpet can be used if it has very short pile. Cork is an option, but canes, walkers or chairs can damage it. Are all the doors three feet (3’) wide? No less than two feet six inches (2’6”) is allowed. If you’re using a wheel chair, having the extra width makes mobility easy and safe. And replace your doorknobs with lever handles.
Next, consider how to get from the house to the outside. Having at least one conveniently located exterior flush-sill door, can give access to a popular outdoor location. Now think about your vehicles. Do you have access (without stairs or narrow paths) to get from inside the house to the garage? What about the eventuality of having someone live in your home to care for you? A separate guesthouse isn’t required, as most homes have an extra bedroom. If that bedroom has an attached bath, with possibility to add a small kitchenette in the future, that works as a place for someone to live with you. It’s good to have a private outside access area as well. Also consider your home’s temperature control. If there is one area you’ll be spending most of your time, make sure it’s equipped with one temperature control zone. There are new mini-split heating and cooling units that can be a perfect solution for this. Of course you want to make that living space tightly insulated, but with good ventilation. Many older people like to close up their house, so an air to air-heat exchanger that provides fresh air (without sacrificing temperature control or energy efficiency), is a must. And it’s not too hard to add into an existing house.
Finally, two of the most important rooms: the bathroom and the kitchen. Roll-in showers, with handle sets that can be adjusted before getting wet, are extremely helpful. The ability to roll a wheelchair up to a vanity or the kitchen sink is recommended. With advance planning, cabinets and plumbing can be laid out so they can be modified as needed with little, if any, extra work. These are just a few items to consider for Aging in Place with your kitchen and bath. Here are some links delving into many other details.
We at Semmes & Co. Builders, Inc. are always here to help you with your Aging in Place plans and concerns. Please contact us any time and we will gladly discuss your plans and ideas.