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Planning for retirement opens up a world of opportunities to get more out of your home. Whether embracing a new gardening hobby or creating a quiet refuge to enjoy the morning paper, your home should be your oasis. Applying a few simple design ideas now can help to ensure that your home remains perfect for you and your loved ones as you age, and frequently, these changes will enhance the overall style or functionality of your home now. Keep these ideas in mind as you take on both small and large home improvement projects.
One of the quickest ways to update your home's look is with a coat of paint. Look for opportunities to use contrasting colors to create a vivid look for your home and to assist people who have difficulty identifying different surfaces in a room. For example, you can paint stair risers a lighter shade if the treads are brown, or use dark carpeting in a room with light furniture.
Too many bathrooms are cramped, awkward and inconvenient. The typical bathroom offers a less-than-optimal design for almost everyone. Vanities may be too low or too high, tubs and showers may be difficult to enter and exit, and doors and dual-handle faucets require two hands to adjust.
Fortunately, it isn't difficult to improve on some of these design flaws without having to consider a complete bathroom remodel. Here's an approach that can make any bathroom a more comfortable experience for all:
While standard toilets are 14 inches from the floor, some manufacturers make "comfort height" or "chair height" models that are 17 to 19 inches tall.
A walk-in shower is a sleek, stylish solution for your bathroom. It is easy to get in and out, and the uncluttered look will add a Zen-like feel to your bathroom. Make sure the shower door is at least 32 inches wide, and keep the shower and bathroom floor heights on the same level. A zero-clearance glass door, which will extend fully to the floor without a threshold to step over, will prevent a slip-and-fall hazard and help keep water inside the shower. A built-in bench will allow added convenience for storing shower items and shaving while preparing your shower for your aging body.
Modern manufacturers offer elegant alternatives to the institutional look of old-school grab bars. These accessories add functionality to your home, decreasing slip-and-fall risks for young and old alike.
There's plenty of moving about, reaching and lifting in any kitchen. In a kitchen designed for accessibility, however, all of these activities are much easier for everyone — from the fittest family member to the chef in a wheelchair.
To ensure that you can enjoy your kitchen for many years to come, make sure you include a design with plenty of lighting and easy-to-reach controls, features like touchless faucets with anti-scald technology, slip-resistant flooring, low or no thresholds on doorways and easily cleanable countertop surfaces such as granite, solid-surfacing or laminate. Other tips for enhancing your kitchen with universal design principles include:
Slide-out wire baskets and other cabinetry solutions will increase accessibility for everyone. Easily organize your appliances, pots and pans, and more with convenient, clever accessories for your cabinets.
A clean, uncluttered floor plan will allow a person using a wheelchair the necessary clearance to maneuver in your kitchen. Instead of a fixed island, add a peninsula or a freestanding island that can be removed down the line to accommodate your changing needs.
One of the easiest ways to keep your kitchen functional for everyone in your family for years to come is to create workstations at several different heights. Creating counter spaces at standard height (36 inches), bar height (42 inches) and table height (30 inches) will create an environment where everyone can be comfortable.
If you have the space in your kitchen, build in a bill-paying desk using cabinet and counter material that will match the rest of your design.
Even if you have decided to include custom cabinets in your kitchen, make sure you use standard sizes so that it will be easy and affordable to modify your kitchen cabinetry as your family's needs change.
There's much more to creating a home that welcomes all visitors than simply adding ramped access. Other entry measures, such as nonslip flooring, an easy-to-reach doorbell and a motion-sensor lamp that switches on and off automatically will enhance your home for the long haul. Also consider the suggestions below:
For the home's exterior, choose low-maintenance materials for siding, decking, landscaping and even gutters. Long-lasting, prefinished siding means less cumbersome repainting; composite decking means never refinishing again; the right shrubs and plants can mean less trimming and watering; and gutter guards eliminate an often-dangerous fall cleaning chore.
For the path to the house, create a smooth walkway to the front door that anyone can take, regardless of their overall mobility. Ensure there is a way to enter without using stairs by incorporating ramps or other means to create a barrier-free pathway. Ramps can be integrated seamlessly into the overall exterior in a manner that is both practical and unobtrusive.
At the entry, consider the size necessary to accommodate a wheelchair or walker, and look for door handles that are easily manipulated by hands of all ages. The front door should be at least 35 inches wide, and the door handle should be a lever. The change in level from the exterior entry floor to the interior floor should be no more than a half inch. The entry door should be protected against rain and weather by an overhead covering such as a roof extension, a broad overhang or an awning.
Laundry rooms are areas that are frequently forgotten, but a few design considerations can open up your laundry room for a lifetime of easy use. Make sure that the space is large enough to avoid trip hazards and to accommodate a wheelchair. Consider a front-load washer to make it easier for the mobility impaired to be able to access it from a seated position.
Also consider combining the laundry room with a master closet. Use this area for washing, drying, ironing and storing clothing. This tip will save you floor space in your home and make a much more efficient laundry day.
Our aging eyes gradually lose their ability to see well in dim light, so installing more lights now will reap benefits in years to come. Include ambient lighting to brighten up every room, but also install spot-focused and adjustable lighting that will illuminate countertops, bathroom sinks, stairways and other working areas.
One popular home upgrade is to refinish a basement as a playroom, home theater or rec room. If you're thinking of upgrading your basement, it would be wise to include a bathroom and a kitchenette, creating the perfect space for an aging parent or adult child to come to stay with you for a while. This arrangement creates a sense of privacy for everyone while allowing the family to stay close. Rebuilding basement stairs to include dual banisters to avoid the risk of falls on steep staircases can also enhance anyone’s ability to enjoy this valuable space.