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Senior citizens are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population.
As those in the Baby Boomer generation all become seniors, the number of individuals over the age of 65 is projected to nearly double by 2030. At that time, senior citizens are expected to represent an astonishing 22% of the total American population. With unprecedented numbers like these, it’s no wonder this demographic has been catching the eye of those in the residential construction and remodeling market.
Home design professionals have an important role to play.
Residential design and various home retrofits can have life-enhancing—and potentially life-saving—impacts for elderly Americans. From designs that reduce the likelihood of falls, to creating welcoming shared spaces to help address social isolation, architects, builders and interior designers have the chance to improve and extend the lives of seniors. The solutions don’t have to be so grand and expensive, either. Even subtle design choices can ultimately impact how long an elderly person is able to live in his or her own home.
Technology-powered devices facilitate aging in place.
Smart home mechanisms like front door locks, lighting, and thermostats that can be controlled with a smartphone can be easier to operate with advanced age. Available for use on devices with larger screens, such as tablets and laptops, navigation becomes easier for the visually impaired.
Don’t forget the flooring.
To create a kinder, gentler home for mature residents, designers are opting for soft and smooth surfaces, like cork, rubber, and linoleum. These softer surfaces are easier on joints and don’t pose a trip hazard like high-pile or thickly padded carpets do. Flooring is kept as smooth and level as possible throughout the home and thresholds are eliminated or drastically reduced in height. Where level changes are necessary, different colors, materials and/or textures helps make them apparent to reduce the risk of trips and falls.
Keep bathroom safety in mind.
As the most dangerous room in the house, the bathroom poses particular threats for aging homeowners. In new construction, showers in a no-threshold or walk-in style make entry and exit easy. Many incorporate a seat into the design for added comfort and safety. When renovating an existing shower, wall tiles that contrast with the floor tiles help residents to more readily distinguish between these two surfaces. Attractive grab bars designed to replicate the appearance of tower bars aid mobility. These helpful aids are typically added by the toilet, too, as well as other places in the bathroom where a helping hand might be needed.
Make the heart of the home user-friendly.
Deep shelving units are especially difficult and impractical for older people, so they’re replaced with hassle-free pull-out cabinets and drawers. Placing countertops at a variety of heights allows residents to work more comfortably, safely and efficiently. Built-in appliances provide more counter space and can be placed at heights that are more suitable and convenient.
Let there be light.
Poor lighting can lead to accidents and falls, especially for the elderly, who are more prone to vision problems than their younger counterparts. Seniors prefer ambient light sources rather than high-contrast lighting that sheds a harsh glare. Today’s senior homes feature plentiful large windows to let in the natural light, along with high-quality artificial illumination from LED lights and easy-to-use rocker style switches. For optimal safety and to ensure unobstructed views, bright motion lights are often added to hallways and points of entry.
Add a splash of color.
High contrast colors are immensely helpful for those whose eyesight and mobility may be diminished. A darker color on the bathroom walls, for example, makes it easier to see a white toilet seat or sink. Color can also have a dramatic effect on mood. Certain hues can greatly increase the joy that these older folks feel within their homes, so clever designers are adding this tool to their senior living plans. For example, soft pinks and greens can induce a sense of peace, while fiery red and vivid orange can improve energy levels. It’s a simple solution that can have profound effects.
Open floor plans reign supreme.
A combined kitchen/dining/living area tends to be easier for to navigate for those who rely on walkers, canes and wheelchairs. Removing narrow, twisting hallways provides more room to maneuver and less opportunity for accidents. Furniture can easily be added, removed and/or rearranged to accommodate changing needs.
Universal design is growing in popularity.
By striving to create a built environment that’s accessible for as much of the population as possible, and for as much of their lives as possible, universal design is here to stay. Rather than designing a home for different stages of life, today’s designers attempt to accommodate all phases, anticipating changes in lifestyle in the same design. With this approach, universally designed house plans can also be perfect for younger generations and can potentially avert the need to move later in life.
Not everyone wants to go the traditional route.
According to a 2018 Merrill Lynch survey, respondents age 65 and up said they prefer living with people of diverse ages and generations rather than segregating themselves with other seniors. With older Americans living longer, healthier lives, many are indeed opting not to move to traditional senior living complexes. Instead, they’re choosing newer apartment developments with an intergenerational mix of residents. Smart home technology, grocery delivery and the availability of home care aides can make this type of apartment living feasible for longer periods of time.
The senior population is set to double over the next decade, so modified home design that improves quality of life will continue to garner attention from every forward-thinking designer, builder, architect and realtor. Through innovative designs that optimize mobility and remodeling plans that make residences more functional, seniors can happily enjoy their homes throughout their retirement years. To learn more about home design trends and retrofits for America’s graying population, please contact our helpful team of professionals.
About Certified Title Corporation: Since 1994, attorney-owned Certified Title Corporation has been furnishing residential and commercial real estate stakeholders across the nation with robust title insurance, settlement, and escrow services. Renowned for their industry-leading reliability and exemplary level of service and quality, the Maryland-based company helps clients from all walks of life achieve their asset goals. To learn more, call (888)486-5511 or visit https://www.certifiedtitlecorp.com/.