Downsizing or moving to a warmer climate can be good decisions for some retirees, but they’re not the right choices for everyone. In fact, more and more Americans are electing to stay in their homes as they get older.
Of course, aging in place can be a challenge if your home isn’t built to accommodate changing mobility needs. If you’ve been thinking about building a new home in Seacoast New Hampshire, Northern Massachusetts, or Southern Maine, you may want to incorporate a few features that will make it possible to remain in your home as you get older.
The Design/Build Process Can Help You Create a Safe, Comfortable Home
Including the features you want in your new home during the design phase is crucial, whether you want your home to include wider hallways or a wine cellar. If you decide to add the features when construction has already begun, you’ll pay more and may slow down construction.
Although it’s true you can remodel your home years from now to make it more accessible, renovation costs are likely to rise as the year's pass. Waiting means you’ll pay more and may need to face the disruption of a renovation when you’re not feeling well.
During the design phase of your new home, you and your designer will create a list of features that will improve your home’s accessibility. He or she may suggest a few things you might not have considered, such as adding blocks that will make it easy to add grab bars to your walls in the future.
You may want to consider incorporating a few of these features into your new home:
- Wider Doors and Hallways: Wider doors and halls will make life easier if you ever need to use a walker or wheelchair. Widening these areas also offers other benefits. Your movers won’t struggle to move your couch or antique dining table through tight spaces. Wider doors and hallways make your home feel more open and airy.
- Recessed Slab: Lowering the slab for your home and garage eliminates the need for steps into your home and reduces your risk of tripping.
- Upgraded Lighting: Age-related changes in your eyes can increase your risk for falls. As you get older, your pupil size decreases, which means that less light enters your eyes. As a result, you need more light to read or make a midnight trip to the bathroom. Adding more lights and installing motion-activated lights in hallways will help you avoid sprains and fractures.
- Bathroom Features: It’s not surprising that the bathroom is a common location for falls. Small spaces coupled with slippery floors can make it difficult to keep your balance. Fortunately, you can make the bathroom safer by installing a curb-less shower and non-slip flooring, adding brighter lighting, raising the toilet, and putting grab bars around the bathtub, shower, and toilet.
- Kitchen Cabinet Design Changes: Upper cabinets that pull down to reveal their contents can be helpful if you’re ever confined to a wheelchair. Eliminating upper cabinets completely may also be an option. You might also want to put variable height counters in the kitchen. These counters can be used by both able-bodied people and people who rely on wheelchairs.
- Safer Flooring: Slippery tile flooring might not be the best design choices as you get older. Protect your bones by adding bamboo, hardwood, laminate, vinyl, or cork floors instead.
- Door Levers: Your manual dexterity may decline if you happen to develop arthritis in your hands or a disease or injury that affects your ability to move your hands and fingers. Adding door levers rather than doorknobs makes opening and closing doors much easier.
- The Latest Technology: There’s no need to venture downstairs to double-check your locks when you can monitor your home’s security from your smartphone. In fact, you can use smart technology to control almost every area of your home. Raise or lower the thermostat, start the shower or oven, close the blinds, or turn on the lights using voice commands. It’s much easier to wire your home for high-tech features during the building process than to rewire it later.
One Story or Two?
Not sure if your new home should be a single story or two or more stories? Single story homes certainly make it much easier to get around, but they aren’t the only choice if you plan to age in place. A multi-story house can also be a good option if you add a first-floor bedroom and bathroom. If you don’t want to sleep downstairs now, use the suite as a guest room or home office.
Depending on the size of your home, you may want to consider adding an elevator. Home elevators take up much less space than commercial models and make it possible to reach every level of your home if you ever develop mobility issues that make it difficult to climb stairs.
Building a home that meets your needs now and in the future takes careful planning. If you’re thinking about building an accessible home in Seacoast New Hampshire get in touch with us. Our design/build team will help you consider all the options.