Wider doorways, threshold-less entryways, barrier-free showers, reinforced walls for day-to-day grab bars – these are just a few of the features to consider when building your home forever or renovating a home you want to be in for years to come.
Even if your health is optimal and mobility issues are not yet a concern for you, it is wise to think about your future needs now. Subtle adjustments and plans today can prove particularly meaningful and impactful down the line; studies have shown that aging in place is strongly linked to better health and greater happiness.
According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). The universal design allows people with different needs to enjoy the same home, even when their needs change.
As the number of older adults continues to grow — this population is projected to increase by 69%, from 56 million to 94.7 million between 2020 and 2060 — universal design features will continue to increase, according to the NAHB. Even a majority of younger buyers (under 35) rate these features as essential or desirable, indicating that accessibility features will generally add value to a home for most buyers, according to survey reports from the NAHB.
Bradley J. Butcher, an architect from northern Michigan, says his work is heavily influenced by universal design and incorporates aging-in-place concepts as much as possible into his construction and renovation projects. Butcher is part of the Sidock Group, offering custom designs for residential, commercial and other clients throughout the Great Lakes region.
“We feature it even more often than people ask for,” he says. “But as soon as we talk about it, they say, ‘Oh, yeah, I didn’t think of that.’ It becomes just as important in the design as the placement of the windows.”
It also highlights the importance of planning today for what may happen tomorrow. “Designing things within reach makes life more accessible, allowing you to stay where you are much longer,” says Butcher. Design plans can be adjusted for just about any budget, he adds. “We want to make the house as usable as possible. If costs prohibit aging-in-place design indoors, how can we do it outdoors? This could mean adding a sidewalk to the lower level exit.
With a few tweaks to your current home or some pre-planning with your new construction design, you can set yourself up for successful aging in place, Butcher says. “In the long term, you try to make the most of this home that is so important to you and use it for as long as you can, regardless of your mobility issues.”
Here are some of Butcher’s top tips for designing a home you can comfortably and safely stay in for years to come: