One of the stark realisations we come to reach in life is how our parents grow old. Once, they towered over us and we looked up to them- literally. But as we get older, so do our parents. At some point, they can’t sweep us up on their shoulders anymore, their movements are slower, and they don’t walk as sprightly as they used to. We depended on them for many things. But as they grow older, they grow more dependent. It’s the circle of life.
Though we know we may not be able to pay their infinite sacrifices that make us what we are and which taught us quite a few life lessons, the least we can do is put a smile on their faces. One way to do that would be to improve their quality of life. And what better way to do that than the home in which they live.
Building a home for aged parents- or remodeling their home, if they already have one- is a priceless gift which requires careful thought and the input of seasoned professional architects and builders. The design of a home for the elderly must focus on comfort, safety and accessibility while helping them be as functional as they possibly can. Let us explore four key considerations when building- or remodelling- for the elderly.
Home Design and Floor Plan
Generally speaking, in designing a home for the elderly, single story living is ideal as it reduces the strain of frequently climbing up and down stairs. In an unavoidable multi-story home situation, essential rooms such as a kitchen, a bedroom, a bathroom and an ideal entertainment or relaxation area, must be on the same floor. Also, stairs should ideally have railings on both sides.
In addition, open floor plans are best and must include spacious, open spaces to aid accessibility, manoeuvrability and visibility. Wide hallways and doorways as well as flush thresholds and non-slip flooring throughout the home are also recommended.
Older people may not have the same vision as they did when younger. Home designs for the elderly must, therefore, have sufficient ambient lighting from windows (much like our signature floor-to-ceiling window designs) as well as from overhead lights. Every part of the home- along the walls, ceilings, hallways and staircases- must be able to be satisfactorily lit at any time of the day, ensuring unobstructed views and optimal safety.
It is best practice to install electrical outlets about 20-to-24 inches above the ground so the elderly do not have to bend too far to access them. In addition, light switches at every entrance and exit are advised. Two-way light switches are important- beginning and end of hallways, top and bottom of stairs, and one close to their bed. Rocker panel switches are more preferable than dimmer knobs or toggle switches.
Furniture and Fittings
Interior décor for a home for the elderly must have furniture and fittings that are easy and safe to use. Furniture with rounded edges- rather than sharp edges- are ideal; and so are seating options with sufficient cushion support and a good hand and neck rest. Glass furniture should be avoided as much as is practical. Other considerations include lever handles for doors rather than door knobs; storage cabinets that aren’t too high; and adjustable plumbing fittings.
Building- or remodelling- a home that is safe, functional, and which supports active aging without compromising aesthetic standards is a worthwhile endeavour. When we create a safe space where the physical and mental well-being of our aged parents are well taken care of, it gives us as much immeasurable joy as it gives them, and that is a satisfying reward in itself.