Seniors are staying in their homes much longer than ever before. When they stay in the home where they raised their family, seniors are likely to remodel to add features to support their new lifestyle like a gardening center in their garage. Seniors may also move to get closer to the grandchildren and there are features they now want in new home.
This article was inspired by a more comprehensive article, Features of the Age-Proof House. Here is a quick summary of the features described in the article, explaining what seniors want in their homes today … so they can live independently for many years to come.
Why are Seniors Staying Home?
Older people like their independence and living in familiar surroundings. They want convenience, comfort and safety and the kitchen is their most important room. All of these sound consistent with homeowners in general, so what unique requirements do seniors have? They aren't as agile, balance can be a problem, and eyesight, hearing, smelling and the sense of touch are weaker. Changes that compensate for these limitations are helpful.
The University of Missouri surveyed 85 homemakers, age 65 and over, and they want:
- Small homes (lower heating/cooling costs) on one level with low ceilings to avoid ladders. Windows that can be cleaned and screens installed/replaced from the inside preferred.
- Low maintenance exteriors – windows, doors and siding that don't need to be painted. A protected entryway can help reduce accidents due to rain and snow.
- Consistency with what is familiar – same type of heating system, same type of stove and dryer.
- Easy to care for window treatments (no venetian blinds) and floors that are not slippery, yet easy to clean are preferred.
- Minimal steps or design for older people, i.e. avoid overhangs that cause tripping.
- Good light without shadows everywhere, but especially in the kitchen, laundry and other work areas and any place where they might trip like steps or simple transitions in the floor.
- Low pitch, longer running doorbells and telephones are easier for seniors who are having trouble hearing and/or responding quickly to these audio sounds.
- Smaller kitchens to reduce the walking (the kitchen triangle) required to prepare a meal.
- Lots of counter space to make food preparation easy, and uncluttered.
- Enough storage for their needs, that can be reached easily. Base cabinets better than wall cabinets to avoid stretching where they can loose balance and fall. A new kitchen trend, open shelving, should also be popular with seniors.
- Storage that's easy to access like sliding doors versus door handles and magnetic latches which are difficult to operate. The new lever type handles are easier for seniors to handle, available for regular doors.
- To conserve energy, they want an eat in kitchen (okay if it's small) and the utility/laundry area separate but nearby with storage and work space (same level as main living area, not in the basement) to reduce walking and carrying laundry.
Not surprising is the absence of critical My Handyman projects we frequently do for seniors, or families where parents are coming for extended visits. Sensitivity is needed as few older people don't want to admit they need these accommodations at home:
- Support in the walls for grab bars, typically needed in bathrooms.
- Additional handrails, most commonly adding a set railing to exterior or basement stairs.
- Level ground outside and/or landscaping that ultimately supports a wheelchair ramp.
- Showers with minimal/no lip are often replaced to help seniors who use a walker or wheelchair.
- Extra lighting, visual clues to changes in flooring or sometimes a min-ramp replacing a single step are small changes that can make a home more senior friendly.
For more assistance in creating a safer home for loved ones, visit the AARP web site.