“There Are No Absolutes For Aging In Place Design”

Aging in place is a personal, individual matter. While there are certain safety protocols we want to observe, how we decide to accommodate each home and its occupants and their needs will vary widely.

People are different

No two people or their homes are exactly alike, even if they are next to each other and the same age. We all have different interests, abilities, and needs. Therefore, there is no consistent or uniform approach to outfitting or renovating our homes.

People have different decorating tastes, enjoy different color palettes for walls and flooring, and like their homes furnished in ways that appeal to them.

Since aging in place is a personal issue, there is no way that we could prescribe a common approach that would relate to every home and its occupants. There are so many different abilities, preferences, and needs – as many as the people living in those homes.

Homes are different

Many homes have steps leading up to the front door. In fact, it’s rare for there not to be at least one step. Often, there are several. If we adopted the position that no home should have any steps leading into it as a visitability initiative, many homes could not comply. Therefore, we have to accept that some homes will present more entrance challenges than others – at least for now.

Homes differ in the amount of maintenance they have received over the years and the amount they may require to maintain them in perfect condition – regardless of their age.

Of course, room sizes, doorways, hallway widths, interior lighting, flooring surfaces, appliances, cabinets and countertops, and other fixtures will likely vary widely among homes depending on their age, location, and any modifications done over the years since they were first completed and occupied.

Bathroom doors can be an issue

While there generally aren’t and shouldn’t be any absolutes for how homes need to be modified for aging in place concerns because homes have their differences, as do the people who occupy them, one concept that transcends individual differences or styles is the bathroom door.

In terms of safety in the bathroom, a bathroom door that opens into the space may present significant safety challenges. A person could fall or collapse against the door, making it difficult to access them. Therefore, this is an area of the home that really does need to be the same for everyone. Doors should not open inward, regardless of their width or design.

Doors that open out into a room or hallway can be a challenge also because they restrict the passageway, but they don’t directly impact the safety of an individual in terms of trapping or restricting access to them.

For best results – to be able to enter a bathroom to check on someone or respond to a call for help – the door should be a slider. This means a barn door or pocket door – as a single panel or split, opening to each side. This way, the door itself does not become the issue, and we can concentrate on tending to the person needing our help. When safety is the issue, we want to remove any barrier that could impact a response.

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