Aging In Place Design – Not Just For Seniors

Written by Alex Deckard, Aeroflow Healthcare

As you gather with friends and family for the holidays, where do you picture your loved ones celebrating together? Most people would say that their home is their gathering place of choice. Rituals, memories, and people all turn a house into a home. As we spend years creating a home, nobody wants to move away for reasons outside their control.

America has an aging population with an increasing life expectancy. Last year, there were over 108 million Americans over the age of 50 and this number expected to grow another 10 million by 2020. In fact, the first human to live to 150 has (probably) already been born! Most people want to live in their own home for as long as possible. Nearly 90% of people over age 65 want to stay in their current home for as long as possible, and 80% believe their current residence is where they will always live. As we age, we will all need a little help.

Aging in Place Design

Aeroflow Healthcare offers a wide range of products that can help people live in their home safely, independently and comfortably regardless of age or ability level. It would be heartbreaking to have the resources on hand that facilitate independence with a home that can’t accommodate installation. Wheelchairs, bathroom safety devices like grab bars, patient room furniture, and oxygen tanks all have specific dimensions that need to be accommodated for when designing a home. So, what can you do today to prepare your home so you can age gracefully in it?

Cost Benefits of Thoughtful Home Design

A new construction or home remodel can be expensive, but assisted living isn’t cheap either. The median monthly assisted living costs could range from $2,288 in Missouri to nearly $6,000 in New Jersey. If you live 15 years longer in an assisted living community in Missouri, it will cost over $400,000.

Replacing handles and door knobs, adding grab bars and railings, and expanding door frames are some affordable projects to tackle in the beginning stages of the design. Some simple redecoration can help begin the process, as well. Removing trip hazards such as power cords or rugs can be a small step that encourages safety. As you age and your health needs change, Aeroflow can help by offering quality home healthcare products through insurance such as portable oxygen, home and bathroom safety devicescatheters, and more.

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Advice from the Experts

We asked Aging in Place specialists Sean and Laura Sullivan to explain how a home can be designed with considerations to accommodate residents and their needs as they age. Sean and Laura are a husband and wife design team who are both accredited aging in place specialists, and together they create beautiful green homes. Sean is the President and accredited Master Builder of Living Stone, and Laura is the owner and lead interior design for ID.ology Interior Design. We asked them a few questions to better understand how aging in place design can benefit people of all ages.

What exactly is Aging in Place? Aging In Place is the ability for one to live in their home comfortably, safely, and as easily as possible for as long as possible. Building and designing in regard to Aging in Place (for new construction or renovation) means that different construction details or elements are considered in the design phase to ensure the home is suitable for the needs of individuals aging in their home as independently as possible. If a caretaker needs to be brought in, the home lends to their needs as well.

What are some examples of aging in place design? Some Aging in Place design elements would be the inclusion of wider hallways and doorways, sufficient lighting that can adjust to aging eyes, handles and grab bars selected for ease of use, and cabinet and appliance placement planned for limited mobility use. A curbless shower makes it easy for anyone and the extra lighting helps aging eyes.

How can these design elements help a person live in their home? If someone happened to use a walker or wheelchair, the home would be designed with larger spaces to allow the individual to move through the home safely and use each space without barriers. These inclusions can allow someone to stay in the comfort of their own home and avoid moving into an assisted living facility.

What rooms might require more attention than others? The main level of the home, including the master suite and kitchen.

At what age should a person consider aging in place renovation? Considering Aging in Place design is important for individuals of all ages. Aging in Place is not only for seniors or individuals with limited mobility or physical abilities— it makes living in a home easier and more comfortable for ALL ages and ability levels. Also, a young couple could have their aging parents come live with them or a loved one could break a bone and become temporarily in need of Aging in Place elements.

Are there certain home furnishings that are more aging in place friendly?  Yes, not only do we consider the physical abilities or needs of individuals, but also their health. Some characteristics of furniture used for Aging in Place homes to be considered would be the seat height and depth, the angle and ergonomics of the backs, weight, arms structure, firmness, and also whether the products are made with healthy components that do not harm the individual’s health.

Are there any stipulations for aging in place when one has a pet? Considerations of amenities for caring for one’s pet could be such things as bathing stations at appropriate heights, feeding stations also at appropriate heights for both the owner and the pet, and easy access to a fenced yard or kennel.

Why is “green” so important for a healthy home and how does Living Stone do “green” differently? Environmentally conscious design is important for many reasons, but the primary reason for us is the health and wellbeing of our clients. Building green protects the environment, supports local business, uses recycled or recyclable content, uses sustainable resources and utilizes energy resources efficiently. When applied in an above standard manner as Living Stone does, it benefits the health of the homeowner.

Indoor air quality is the missing ingredient in Green Building and that is the real reason many people don’t see the value in paying for “green” materials. However, when you consider that homes are being built with often inadequate ventilation systems, you can actually be causing damage to your health. According to the EPA, we spend up to 90% of our time indoors. Our indoor environment can be more toxic when we fill our homes with products with VOC’s, which are present in everything from cleaning equipment to building materials such as glue, paint, varnishes, and wood preservatives. VOC’s are emitted as gasses from certain solids or liquids and can have adverse effects on your health.

A green home is more than just an energy efficient home. It’s a home that prioritizes your health and wellbeing.

If someone is considering a remodel or new construction that includes Aging in Place, what should they look for in a contractor/builder/interior designer? We are both Certified Aging In Place Specialists as well as Certified Green Professionals, which gives us a more astute awareness and focus on the indoor air quality for our clients’ health.

What are some “outliers” in the design process that most people don’t know about? Any interesting/strange techniques to make a home more comfortable for aging? Most individuals overlook or underestimate the importance and value of space planning during the design phase of a renovation or new construction. Bringing in a professional service like those we offer at Living Stone and ID.ology give our clients the best approach possible when designing a home.

How Do You Rate Your Retirement?

If you were to give the retirement life you have been living to this point a grade – like back in school – would you be looking at an “A” for excellent or a “C” for average or (hopefully not) an “F” for failure? There are a lot of variables – maybe it’s better to go with pass/fail. It’s not always easy to live the retirement of our dreams. I think the bottom line is are you happy with your second act or is there room for improvement? And if there is room for improvement what can you do to raise your grade?

I have been retired full time about five years now. Most readers of LoveBeingRetired are familiar with the story of my fall from grace in the tech start-up world that left me prematurely job free well before anticipated. Sometimes you have to accept harsh reality which for me was I was too old (at 53!!) to do a worthy job within my chosen career at least according to the hiring powers. I am not bitter (well not overly bitter) but it was an unexpected turn of events to say the least.

Looking back at these years in retirement I find myself reliving a myriad of emotions:

- The fear I was totally unprepared for the decades of “independence” ahead.

- The self-doubt following months spent unsuccessfully trying to get back into the working world.

- The nagging concern over finances.

- Then the glimmer of possibilities as I began getting used to my new lifestyle and actually enjoying it.

- And now the hopeful expectation for all that is still to be.

St. Chapelle spires

Before assigning a grade to my retirement or yours there are a few questions worthy of consideration.

Do you find meaning in your life? Many find their justification for being in the job they do. Once separated from that daily endeavor they struggle to find that same feeling of worth.  If you can’t find worthwhile endeavors beyond the job retirement can feel empty. It becomes difficult to motivate yourself to get out of bed each morning – what is the purpose? But if you have reasons, motivations, passions that excite you each day can offer new opportunity. You don’t have to stick to the same road that led you here. Try new things, branch out, cut loose and do what feels good. Finding meaning is very personal and no two paths are exactly the same. How would you rate your current situation?

Do you have plans for the future? I have found having goals keep me moving forward. Retirement need not be the end of aspirations. Glen Frey of the Eagles said, “People don’t run out of dreams; people run out of time.” Retirement offers precious time to do what you want to do. Whether your passion is travel or learning, reading or writing, painting or singing, the time you need to explore new directions is now yours. What do you see yourself doing tomorrow? Next month? Next year?

What would you change about your situation? Back in the day we worked hard to earn those all-important “A” grades. It makes sense that it takes similar effort to boost our retirement rating to an honor roll worthy level. And while a report card full of “A”s as a student may have been awesome a stellar retirement rating means you are on track to live the best second act possible. Are there areas requiring attention to realize the best retirement possible? Can you fine tune your lifestyle to increase the likelihood of living a fulfilling retired life?

What are the best things about being retired? Sometimes life feels a bit heavy as we strive to address various challenges such as aging or unwelcome money issues or living without clear direction or struggling with boredom. Occasionally we may find that old Ben Franklin comparison of pluses versus minuses tipping in the wrong direction. As an inveterate optimist I typically see the glass half full. I have found worrying has no impact on the outcome of events. No matter how I fret good things and bad things happen. Why not face the future like Frank Sinatra who sang “The best is yet to come.” And those best of moments are sometimes found in the least likely of circumstances.

What are your plans for your continuing education? Just because we haven’t been to class for years does not mean we are no longer capable of learning. With the free time retirees enjoy the opportunity presents itself to pursue areas that interest us rather than are required of us. Your second act can be the right time to learn more about what you love without the stress of final exams. Put that mind to work. Keep yourself engaged and challenged. You are never done learning.

Are you happy? At the end of the day when you glance into the mirror do you see a smiling face looking back? If you do, give yourself an “A” for making your retirement work. That is what is all about right, finding happiness and fulfillment and enjoyment each day. Whatever path you discover, whatever steps and missteps you take, wherever your journey leads you if when it is all said and done you feel positively about how your time is being spent you are doing just fine. As a matter of a fact, feel free to do more of the same!

Each of us has the power to influence the quality of our retired life. With some work hopefully we can improve a less-than-stellar grade to something closer to an “A”. Why settle for average when you can be excellent. When you think about it, now that you are retired is there a more worthy focus for your attention?

LoveBeingRetired.com