insights on creating innovative spaces

Are You Aging in Place?

I am part of the Baby Boomer generation and we want to age in place. What does that mean? It means that we are part of that post-World War II generation, born between 1945 and 1964. It means that we question the values and assumptions of the generations that came before us. It means that as we age, we don’t accept assisted living facilities or nursing homes as a fact of life. It means we need to figure out how to age gracefully, safely and confidently in our own homes. AARP surveyed adults over 65 and found that 83% of homeowners were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to reside in their own homes for the rest of their lives.

What does this mean for interior designers?  It is a hot topic as 2011 is the year when Boomers start to reach the standard retirement age of 65.  There are many factors a designer must consider if they are under taking a remodel or redesign of a Boomer’s home. Ease of access, ability to navigate and familiarity of place are all important design concepts. For example, when considering a bathroom remodel we normally make decisions about tile, bathtub vs. shower, paint or wallpaper, towel racks and lighting. If I am designing for a Boomer, I may consider a porcelain tile instead of a marble tile. Why? Porcelain tile is not as shiny or slippery as marble tile.  I will consider towel racks that can be installed as grab bars to provide instant stability, if needed.

I was working with a client who had an apartment with a bedroom located in a loft accessed by a captain’s ladder.  I have to admit, when I was in my 20’s I would have loved that captain’s ladder!  It was fun to scramble up a ladder to my bed.  However, now I look at a ladder or spiral staircase and think about how easy it would be to slip.  I would suggest two alternatives to dealing with this issue. One, is to consider turning the loft into storage space for items needed only occasionally.  The second, if space allows, is to convert the ladder to a staircase.  Both options are focused on limiting my client’s risk of injury.

The American Society of Interior Designers is very focused on the topic of Aging in Place.  In fact, they offer the following advice to designers like me:

  • Consider the ergonomics of aging
  • Think about furniture from the perspective of mobility and agility
  • Increase light to aid diminished vision
  • Reduce or eliminate door ledges or sunken floors
  • Judge the practicality of existing storage solutions and modify for ease of access
  • Organize electrical cords to avoid accidents

We Boomers want to retain our independence and age gracefully in our familiar, stylish and safe homes. Are you thinking about how to remodel for the next phase of your life? I’d like to offer the first five respondents 25% off an hours consultation on home design for aging in place. Post your comments and interest in a consultation here!