Home upgrades that increase comfort, safety and functionality
The first wave of the baby boomer generation just hit 65, but these individuals are far from giving up the active lifestyle and creature comforts they have come to know. Today’s housing market has baby boomers either selling their homes to downsize or remaining in their homes for the long term.
For those who want to remain in their homes, some improvements should be considered when remodeling to increase comfort, safety and functionality all while maintaining a marketable property. These improvements support multi-generational living within the home and add value and make the home attractive to new buyers when the time comes to sell.
Doorways Expand doorway(s) in at least one common bath to either 32 or 36 inches wide. Wider doorways provide better access for mobile assistance devices should these be needed. Look for ways to increase the size of the bathroom where possible.
Comfort-height toilets Low-flow comfort-height toilets save on water usage and enable easy transfer on and off the toilet.
Walk-in showers Bath tubs are difficult to get in and out of and contribute to a number of fall injuries. Walk-in showers without a curb and a non-slip surface make more sense, allowing easier access, and can accommodate a mobile assistance device if needed. Shower fixtures should be anti-scald rated with lever handles for safe and easy use.
Wall-mounted lavatories These allow better access to the sink and faucet. Use faucets with lever handles or integrate faucets with sensors to save on water and to assist those with rheumatory ailments.
Decorative grab bars Injuries related to falls in bathrooms are on the increase, and integrating decorative grab bars in bathing areas and around the toilet should be considered.
Drawer-style or elevated dishwashers An elevated dishwasher reduces bending to load and unload dishes and eases access for those who may require a wheelchair.
Cooktops/ranges Controls should be easy to access so the cook doesn’t have to reach across a heated surface or open flame.
Lever-handled faucets Faucets with lever handles and pull-out sprayers are easy to use and access.
Slide-out shelving Slide-out shelves in cabinets and pantries create easier access, reduce bending and enhance organization.
Task lighting Add lighting under wall cabinets and above range, sinks and preparation areas for better visibility when working in the kitchen.
Non-slip flooring Integrate tile or composite flooring materials in bathrooms with non-slip surfaces to reduce slipping and falls. These materials also facilitate traction of wheelchairs and walkers.
Hardwoods/laminates Consider replacing carpeted areas with hardwoods/laminates for easy cleaning, to improve indoor air quality and to enable use of mobile assistance devices.
Security/energy monitoring These systems can manage lighting, heating and cooling systems; monitor energy usage; control audio and video equipment; increase security; and notify you or other family members via smartphone in the event of an emergency.
Low-thresholds Thresholds to at least one exterior entrance (The most used is the best candidate) should be barrier-free so that stepping up to access the home is not required. One entrance should be able to accommodate a person in a mobile assistance device.
Elevators Residential elevators increase and improve access for those who may require mobile assistance devices or suffer from leg or knee ailments or injuries.
All of these improvements can be installed with attractive finishes and designed to compliment the home, making it highly marketable. When you are ready to remodel your home to support the needs and lifestyle of an aging family member, engage a designer or contractor who is knowledgeable in “universal design.”
—Jesse Morado, CR, is the director of production at MOSAIC Group [Architects and Remodelers], an Atlanta-based design/build company with indoor and outdoor living divisions. www.mosaicgroupatlanta.com