You’ve settled down in the home you plan on growing old in. Or maybe you plan to care for your elderly parents? When settling in a home, you should consider outfitting it to age with you with aging in place techniques.
What is Aging in Place?
Aging in place means living in the residence of your choice for as long as physically possible, even through disabilities and limited mobility. Certain appliances and other design changes can make your elder years much easier, such as accounting for space for wheelchair accessibility, adding “D” shaped handles for easy grip, and installing shallow sinks for ease of use.
With a few changes, some that follow the Americans with Disabilities Act (link), your home can be easier for you to use and navigate as you grow old, or as you take care of aging family members.
Choosing the Right Appliances
When designing your home with aging in place techniques in mind, replacing your appliances is a good place to start. Start with choosing appliances that have universal design. This means they are easy to use, display information clearly, and have convenient functions. As you remodel or buy new appliances keep these few tips in mind.
- Microwaves: Put your microwave at or below counter space. Not only is this better for your back since you aren’t bending too low or reaching to high to get things out of it, it also reduces the risk of spilling hot liquids as you remove items.
- Refrigerators: When buying a new refrigerator, opt for a top-mount refrigerator with a bottom freezer for easier access. Look for models with ample door space and illuminated exterior water and ice dispensers. Good lighting on the inside will also help visibility as you dig around for your favorite midnight snack.
- Cooktops: Compared to traditional ranges, cooktops are safer because they cool quicker and have smooth tops, reducing the risk of burns and spills. Some special features to look for include color indicators that show when a burner is hot, front-mounted controls, and large numbers on well-lit displays.
- Wall ovens: When installed at the correct height, wall ovens limit the amount of bending or lifting that takes place when placing dishes in or pulling hot dishes out of your oven. Installing the appliance so the racks line up with your counter height can help prevent unnecessary bending and prolonged lifting, making baking and roasting easy. Also look for sliding oven racks for smooth access.
- Dishwashers: Dishwashers, a luxury found in most homes, limit time spent standing to wash dishes. This is especially useful for people who may have difficulty standing for long periods of time. When looking for a new dishwasher, look for models with easy to read displays and with buttons instead of dials. Dials can cause issues for people who have difficulty gripping and/or turning objects. Lastly, avoid levers that lock the dishwasher. Securing the locking mechanism may be difficult for people who have diminished hand strength.
- Laundry: The first step when choosing a new washer and dryer set is to select front-loading models. This makes it easier to add and remove items without having to dig into a deep washing machine. Also, raise your washer and dryer by 12-15 inches so you don’t have to bend as low, risking back issues.
What other changes can I make?
Appliances aren’t the only upgrades you can make to ensure your home is age-in-place ready.
When it comes to cabinets, install “D” shaped pulls instead of knobs for easy grip. Make the cabinet corners more accessible with Lazy Susans or corner drawers so you don’t have to get on your hands and knees to search for that punch bowl you only use once a year. Install pull-out shelves or large drawers so all pots, pans, and snacks are easy to find and grab.
Now, let’s talk sinks. First, a shallow sink, preferably 6-8 inches, makes lifting water-filled pots easier and causes less strain. Install a hands-free or lever-handle faucet with a pull out-sprayer. Remember to include an anti-scald device to prevent burns. Finally, leave space under the sink to make it wheelchair accessible, or buy a motorized sink that can be lifted or lowered to the desired height.
Start Planning Now
It’s never too early to make your home age-in-place ready – aging in place design can even raise the value of your kitchen remodel in certain neighborhoods. This resource does not cover all the ways you can make sure your home ages with you, so contact Terri, our Certified Aging in Place Specialist, today to create a plan for your home.