Age may just be a number, but it is a number you need to take a serious note of when you are planning your retirement home, or, for that matter, a house for your parents or any other senior member of your family. Many countries have specific rules for buildings meant for senior citizens. Following them is one way of ensuring an elderly friendly dwelling. However, planning for an age friendly home requires a lot more preparation than that. Many elderly people share the same domain with younger members of the family.
In such cases, the existing structure needs sufficient modifications to allow comfort, safety, convenience and contended living condition for each occupant of the house. Though not intentionally so, modern structures can sometimes be biased towards young adults. You need to watch out for certain pitfalls that may cause considerable distress for the older family members. Following are some of the essentials that you need to keep in mind while designing a age friendly home.
Always begin your planning by first asking for any personal preferences. Your parents and older relations belong to another generation and may have choices very different than your own. Also, do not assume about what may or may not be suitable for their environment. Someone may be very happy staying at an isolated cottage with a small garden. But another person of similar age may be happier in staying in an apartment in the heart of the city and leading a more active social life.
Try to incorporate the elements that they want in their surroundings. Bau-Fritz GMBH & Co designed this home keeping in mind the needs of the elderlies. When not possible or detrimental for their well being make them understand why you are failing to apply their preferences. That way you will ensure a more peaceful living condition for all.
Ease of accessibility to any part of the building is extremely vital. When need be, make the house wheelchair accessible by building ramps at the approach of the front door and other areas that open towards the terrace, kitchen garden, backyard etc. Provision for domestic elevator is a must for multi storeyed buildings. Alternatively, you may plan a living area confined to one floor or two floor levels at most.
People of advanced age are not necessarily invalid. Most them of can and do climb staircases quite a few times a day. So make sure you have you have traditional broad staircases. These should not be too steep that they hurt the knees or be a cause breathlessness. Contemporary mono or duo stringer stairs, spiral staircases etc might be very fancy but not at all age friendly. Have proper railings that ensure safety during climbing up and down the stairs.
Have large windows the flood that interior with sufficient light during the daytime. Install enough artificial lighting that does same after the evening sets in. Choose a colour scheme that easily bounces off the light and brightens up every corner of the room. Create contrasts by combining dark shades with the lighter ones so that things are easily discernible. But do not go for an overly dark colour scheme that makes the interior look gloomy.
It is also better to avoid an all white décor with too many shiny elements. They tend to trap energy and disturb the tranquillity of the home. When used tactfully bright colours easily uplift the mood with their cheerful presence. This may be of particular use to offset any melancholy feelings related to advanced age.
Selecting the correct flooring material is another important step. Use such materials that are naturally non slippery. Wood floors made of oak, hickory, teak, walnut etc are good choices for any age group. Besides being naturally non slippery they are warm, comfortable to the feet and have insulating capabilities. Terracotta tiles, mosaic etc can also be used. Wall to wall carpeting is highly advisable in an age friendly home. Padded linoleum, vinyl flooring or rubber flooring can be used instead. In case of any accidental fall these options will prevent any serious injurious.
Special care must be taken to plan the bathroom and kitchen floors. Do not go for highly polished stone, terrazzo, porcelain tiles or laminated floorings in these areas. Mandatorily use slip free mats in all these areas. Once again, think of installing supportive railings when need be.
Build them a cosy entertainment area cum lounge where your older family members can enjoy spending time in the company of people they feel most comfortable with. Elderly people may have a vastly different social life. They may like to mingle with friends and acquaintances of their own age group. Allow them enough space to lead a life their own way.
Even while at an advanced age they may not be ready to relinquish their independence. A living space complete with all kinds of facilities will allow them to enjoy a self sufficient life. An open plan living may be particularly age friendly, but consult with them first to check how comfortable they are with the idea.
Create a kitchen that is homey, spacious and have all amenities that one requires for day to day operation. However, avoid stuffing the kitchen with all kinds of ultra modern gadgets and gizmos. They may never be touched at all, but would only create further clutter. Have a small breakfast table with chairs. Replace the bar stools with comfy chairs. These are much comfortable to occupy for extended period of time.
Do not install electronic amenities like microwave oven above the eye level. Lifting food items and checking their readiness are quite difficult in such an awkward position. Try not to have storage units too high on the wall either. You can consider having a good old kitchen cabinet instead.
Even a small garden would be a great addition with a house like this. Where it is not possible to create an elaborate garden think of building a terrace decorated with potted plants, vertical garden and small chatting zone. You can check these tips to improve your small courtyard even further.
If possible, utilise the roof the same way. Breathing in the fresh air of the surrounding and appreciating the changing colours of the season will rejuvenate the mind and body. Gardening is a precious hobby that they can indulge in. It will keep them occupied. They will be able to enjoy some sort of exercise out of doors which is vital for their well being.