Futureproofing for Old Age as ILC Report Claims Too Few Homes Suit Elderly Needs
Today the International Longevity Centre has published a report on Future Proofing for Retirement Housing stating that only 0.7% of people aged 65+ in the UK live in specific housing-with-care models. Here we take an architect’s view of designing for old age.
Old age is not an illness but comes to us all, bringing with it stiff joints and creaking bones. Equally, infirmity and old age do not necessarily go together. But maintaining an independent lifestyle in your own home, whatever your changing circumstance, needs only a little thought and smart design. Addressing the factors of an ailing body and a more sedentary lifestyle can still be handled with subtlety and need not involve a move.
Careful design considerations can be used to avoid many difficulties, including bending and an increased propensity to trip over small height changes. Level access throughout the home and garden will lessen the risk of falls and automatic garage doors prevent strain. Access to kitchens and bathrooms have to be safe and uncomplicated while raised WCs and a wet room with a fold-down shower seat will avoid the difficulties of getting into and out of a bath and ultimately giving longer independence.
A major issue is likely to be your need to get from one storey to another and you might need to consider a lift, such as a stair-lift though some staircases are too small or not suitable. Alternatives are a through-floor which may not be as expensive as you might think.
Improving views, particularly in the living rooms and kitchen, can be achieved by lowering window sills and the maximising of natural light will give a happier environment. Arthritic hands manage levers better than knobs so a change of the ironmongery on doors and cupboards around the house will be a great help to arthritic hands. Handrails that are robust and simple (avoid the designer look) should be positioned on strong walls, while shallow steps with a handrail are easier to negotiate and more desirable than ramps unless a wheelchair is needed. In this case, avoid the problems of getting stuck by replacing gravel driveways and paths with bonded gravel.
In the kitchen avoid low and awkward cupboards while non-slip surfaces can be applied to areas where there may be spills. High level fridges minimise unnecessary bending and lifting can be reduced using ovens with sliding doors that act as a safe shelf. Instant boil taps might offer an alternative to heavy kettles while induction hobs will cut the likelihood of unnecessary burns. Internal finishes can be made for easy maintenance and regularly accessed sockets put at waist height.
If there is a need for wheelchair use, space becomes a factor as in Britain most doorways, halls and passages would need widening to allow freedom of movement. Basins and work surfaces would also have to be altered to be at the right height.
Smart technology is no longer the preserve of the young with lighting, heating, security, opening doors and windows and much more managed via the internet at the touch of a button.