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An extension of ourselves from how they look to how they operate, our homes should work with us to accomplish our routines and rituals—rather than against us. If not designed accordingly, the latter can hold true as we age, leaving folks with spaces that are either difficult to navigate or stripped of any sense of personality. For those who prefer, and have the ability, to maintain their independence as they get older and stay in their own homes, this is known as aging in place. With as many as 90 percent of senior citizens surveyed in an AARP study saying they would prefer to do so, it’s important to utilize design to ensure that as you get older, your home is a space you feel empowered in, from safety and comfort to personal style.
The key to aging in place is planning ahead. The term is less about pinpointing the exact moment we fall into this category, and more about preparing for this natural process so that when we do need modifications to our homes, they are either minimal or already complete.
According to a HomeAdvisor study, nearly half of homeowners over the age of 75 reported renovating their residences in anticipation of aging. Correspondingly, less than 30 percent of them struggled to get around their houses as they’ve gotten older. And now, even people in their 40s are considering their retirement years when they renovate or remodel, so it’s never too early to start.
But how do you put a plan in motion to age in place and do it stylishly? Follow along as we highlight products for aging in place that won’t sacrifice your personal style.
Choose a vanity that allows seated users to get ready comfortably. Console vanities are a great option, with many styles available with at least 34” of space below the fixture for meeting ADA-compliant guidelines. Wall-mount vanities are a smart choice as well, which allow the user to install at their preferred height while creating a unique floating effect.
Both of these vanity silhouettes can be found in styles from classic and timeless to sleek and modern, ensuring your personal style is on full display.
Tip: When it comes to your vanity sink, consider using an undermount sink as to not add extra height. If you’re interested in a vessel sink, be sure to factor in its height when choosing or installing your vanity to keep everything easily within reach.
Being one of the most frequently used items in the home, it’s important for the toilet to be user friendly. With the standard toilet height at 14-15” from the floor, this is considered a bit low for individuals with limited mobility. For a more universal option, try an ADA-compliant toilet instead, which sits at 16-19” from the floor.
Similar to the flexibility in height of wall-mount vanities, wall-mount toilets are an excellent solution for adding sleek, minimalist style to your bathroom while sitting at the perfect height per your current of future needs.
To minimize strain, smart toilets and bidets are also excellent additions for aging in place design. Infused with technology, smart toilets offer luxurious features from automatic flushing to adjustable seat temperature to an automatic night light.
Incorporated with bidet functionality, these toilets offer easily accessible water pressure and temperature controls and an air dryer for an all-inclusive experience that reduces bending, twisting, and reaching. To add bide features to your current toilet, bidets seats can simply be added on with minimal installation required.
Learn more about SMART TOILETS
Learn more about BIDETS
For luxury that transcends all ages, swap your traditional tub for an air tub. Initially designed for hospital use, air tubs bring therapeutic massage to the comfort of your home. Through tiny, fizzy bubbles that delicately caress the skin, air tubs are known for relaxing muscles, improving blood circulation, and relieving pain from soreness to specific concerns like arthritis and rheumatism.
For your shower, consider a system with a hand shower. Hand showers are an excellent option for reaching tricky areas with minimal bending and twisting. Those with an included slide bar offer added adaptability, with adjustable height that is easy to change depending on the user or task. Shower systems are available in elegant, low-profile silhouettes, with these accessories no exception for achieving a sleek, customized look.
Add modern grab bars within reaching distance of toilets, tubs, showers, and any area that could cause fatigue from prolonged standing. Grab bars are generally easy to install, but need to be secured to wall studs or solid wood blocking behind a finished wall to support weight safely. Available in sleek designs and finishes, grabs bars will bring stability to your space while complementing its style—not distracting from it.
Read our article on ADA-compliant decor to learn about ADA-compliant installation requirements.
Tip: To minimize the risk of slipping in your bathroom from various level changes, consider designing a wet bathroom. This type of design requires clever placement of your fixtures and intentional draining, but it keeps your floor all on one seamless level. Along with its safety implications, it provides a stunning open concept look that has been a staple in European homes for centuries.
One of the simplest swaps you can make for a more mobility-friendly home is your drawer or cabinet hardware. Rather than knobs that can be tricky to grip, consider a more straight-forward option like pulls. Cabinet pulls and cup pulls are universally easier to use and are available in endless eye-catching styles and finishes.
For this same type of accessibility, add pulls to your refrigerator, dishwasher, and other appliances. Not only do appliance pulls ensure optimal usability for your appliances, but they will create a stunning cohesive look alongside the rest of your hardware.
For a kitchen faucet that makes food prep and clean-up a breeze throughout all life stages, consider a touchless faucet. Sometimes referred to as hands-free faucets, they use motion sensor technology to run water when a hand or object is waved in front of it.
While these faucets are commonly known for performing tasks with messy hands, they also eliminate the need to reach, making them quite a mobility-friendly option. Modern in style in addition to functionality, touchless faucets often include minimalist silhouettes for a timeless look in any space.
To ensure navigating your home is hassle-free over time, consider installing lever handles rather than door knobs for both exterior and interior doors. Since they only require pushing down rather than gripping and twisting, lever handles generally make for a more comfortable option over round door knobs. From traditional and ornate styles to sleek and contemporary ones, you can easily find a lever handle set for achieving the perfect grand entrance.
To age in place seamlessly and stylishly, intentional lighting is key. As it becomes more important for walking paths and busy areas of the home to be well lit as we age, ensure a seamless transition by accompanying your statement lighting with plenty of task and ambient fixtures.
For daily tasks and routines, seeing small objects is essential, which can become more difficult over time. In kitchens, utilize hidden under-cabinet lighting and pendant lighting, and for bathrooms, consider an LED mirror or LED medicine cabinet with adjustable controls for elevated convenience and style while getting ready. To keep rooms and paths visible, incorporate ambient lighting throughout with a series of eye-catching wall sconces—in hallways and bedrooms especially.
Entering and exiting the home should be safe regardless of time of day, so don’t forget the exterior lighting. Whether your style calls for classic, farmhouse, industrial, or minimalist, a wide variety of outdoor lighting styles and finishes are available to best illuminate your space.