Do you have an elderly parent or relative living with you? Here are 5 simple home renovations you could do to make it safer and more comfortable for them to age in place.
In Malaysia, the 60+ age demographic is becoming on one of the fastest-growing segment of the population. According to the previous Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim, the population percentage of this age group was 8.8% in 2014 and is set to increase to 15% by 2030. The reason could be the contrasting combination of an increase in life expectancy and a decrease in fertility rates.
FUN FACT: Asia, with 508 million people aged 60 or over in 2015, was home to 56% of the global older population, a share projected to increase to 60% in 2030. – World Population Ageing 2015 Report, United Nations –
Today’s parents and grandparents in Malaysia are definitely living longer and as they age, the chances are that they are going to be moving in with one of their children. It is only time before a spouse passes away or a health issue crops up, rendering them physically vulnerable. So, what better way to watch over mum and dad than have them under your own roof? Let’s admit it, us Malaysians aren’t big on retirement/nursing homes or aged care facilities.
However, most of our homes are ill-suited for the elderly. No one wants to think about their parents struggling in their twilight years, but it will be most prudent to anticipate challenges such as the inability to climb stairs, being wheelchair-bound, etc and make some amendments to cater to senior living.
Hence any house renovation made today should include an eye towards the future to ensure your home is senior-safe and usable in the long-term. After all, you will be in your parents’ shoes one day too! Taking care of these issues can go a long way in reducing the stress and cost of making modifications later when you want to age in place.
Here are some easy-to-incorporate designs that you can consider for today’s renovation and tomorrow’s ease of use.
#1 Curbless showers
In recent years, the separate walk-in shower became a must-have in the bathroom. They remain popular, but you can improve their safety for senior living by skipping the small threshold that requires stepping over. Instead, opt for a shower that’s completely level with the bathroom floor. Even a small curb can be a tripping hazard!
Those who might question the practicality of a curb-free design have nothing to fear as these showers have floors that slope towards the drain, keeping water out of the bathroom while enabling efficient evacuation of water. A plus point is that this seamless design translates to fewer areas where mildew and grime that unpleasant to clean can gather.
#2 Slip-resistant flooring
Don’t forget to consider your parents’ unsteady balance in later years – flooring like hardwood floors may pose a danger as its smooth hard surface increases the risk of slips.
Pay special attention to entryways as it is a high-use area as well as bathrooms, which is the place where falls are most likely to happen in a home. Smaller tiles reduce potentially slippery surfaces. Additionally, softer flooring like short-nap carpet, cork, or bamboo are warm and easier on the feet while reducing noise.
#3 Open floor plans
The open floor plan is a design element where a room forms a single living space – it is most common for this room to combine the kitchen, dining room and living areas. Open floor plans contribute to a safe and comfortable space for everyone – family members are able to interact and watch after one another while going about their daily tasks.
Walls create obstacles to manoeuvre around and they reduce sight-lines, natural light and airflow. By opening the environment, an open floor combats these disadvantages and contributes to the feel of a community as it keeps the family together and encourages quality time!
#4 Expand doorways
While open floor plans allow for easy manoeuvrability, doors and hallways in other areas of the house can be constraining. Widening doors to a minimum of 32 inches, ideally 36 inches whenever possible will improve accessibility, especially if a visitor or occupant requires an assisted device like a walker or wheelchair. Also, your doorways should not have raised thresholds; instead, they must be flush with the floor.
The extra width will actually enhance the visual appeal of a home as well. You can either hire a contractor for this task or attempt it yourself with the proper guidance and an oscillating multi-tool on hand.
#5 Use levers instead of door knobs
This simple design detail can assist in adapting to more restricted hand mobility in older age and still be stylish. Doors with lever handles are easier to use than doorknobs, whether you’re burdened with groceries or have issues with gripping strength in the future.
As a bonus, there’s a negligible cost difference between knobs and handles in almost any style.
Extra tip: Change to easy-to-grasp handles and pulls for all your cabinets and drawers and home to make it easier for arthritic hands to open and close them.
*Article was written in collaboration with Anita Franco.