Aging at home is increasingly popular as seniors want to maintain independence and remain active in the communities. To do so, it is important to design an accessible and comfortable home that meets the individual needs of seniors. This article will provide helpful information for creating a safe environment that allows seniors to age safely in place.
I. Benefits of Aging in Place
As the baby boomer generation starts to get older, many South Africans are opting to age in place – or stay in their own homes and communities – rather than move to senior care facilities. There are a few key reasons why this is the case.
- More affordable – Despite the availability of high-end and specialised facilities, aged care options can be expensive for many South Africans. Living in their own homes gives people the opportunity to use their funds in other ways.
- Preserving independence – Aging in place gives seniors the opportunity to maintain their independence and autonomy for a longer period of time.
- Fewer restrictions – In many instances, aging in place could mean fewer restrictions on what seniors can do or where they can go. This could be especially beneficial for those who enjoy regular family visits or outings.
Aging in place for South African seniors has its own unique challenges but with proper planning and organised resources it can be done in a manner that provides elderly individuals with a sense of comfort and dignity.
II. Challenges to Consider When Designing an Accessible Home
When designing a home with accessibility in mind, there are a few challenges to keep in mind. In South Africa, the key consideration is the South African National Standard (SANS) 10400 Part XA. This legislation requires building designs to integrate features designed to support person with disabilities, such as:
- Adequate width corridors and door openings
- Ramps where there are staircases
- Floor surfaces with a low Risk of slipping
- Adequate light and ventilation, where possible
It can also be challenging to find a balance between adequate accessibility for people with disabilities and aesthetically pleasing design. For example, ramps or stair handrails may need to be installed on an exterior building, and may need to match in style with existing features. Bespoke solutions from a builder or designer may be required at additional cost, while also ensuring existing building regulations are met.
When considering aesthetics, use of light colours is recommended, both for safety and to help visually impaired people navigate the building with ease. Keeping pathways, staircases, landings and doorways uncluttered and well lit can also help with navigation.
III. Strategies for Creating a Comfortable and Accessible Home
An accessible and comfortable house can be made in many different ways and it depends on what is important to the individual and their lifestyle. Here are some strategies for creating a welcoming home that is accessible for all:
- Check the Layout: An ideal house has a comfortable and inviting layout. Make sure all areas of the house are easily accessible and that no area is too difficult to reach. Consider any physical barriers or mobile equipment that needs to be kept in easy reach, and create enough space to move from one area to another without any obstacles.
- Make it Accessible: No home should have any barriers that stop anyone from fully enjoying the space. Consider any alterations that can be made to ensure everyone can enter and move around the house safely. This includes adding ramps at entrances, widening doorways and fitting handrails.
- Choose the Best Furniture: Choose furniture that makes the home comfortable and accessible. Invest in furniture that is easy to move and arrange, and fits the style of the house. Before purchasing furniture, check the size of the room and the size of the furniture to make sure it is a good fit.
By following these steps for creating a safe and comfortable home, you will ensure that everyone can enjoy the house to its fullest. Not only will these strategies help create a welcoming atmosphere, it will also help everyone feel relaxed and secure in their home.
Q: What is “aging in place”?
A: Aging in place is the term used to describe old adults living in their own homes or apartments, as opposed to moving to a dedicated retirement home or assisted living facility. It has become more popular in recent years, as many seniors wish to remain in familiar surroundings and maintain their sense of independence.
Q: What are some of the advantages of aging in place?
A: Aging in place can bring many advantages. Not only does it allow older adults to remain in familiar surroundings, but it also provides them with increased independence and autonomy, as well as the opportunity to maintain their social networks.
Q: What design considerations should be taken into account when aging in place?
A: Designing the home for aging in place includes making appropriate modifications to ensure a safe and comfortable home environment. Common changes include installing grab bars, widening doorways for wheelchair access, non-slip flooring, and installing features to make home tasks easier such as stair lifts or reach extenders.
Making specific accommodations to an existing home for aging in place is a great way to ensure comfort and safety for you or your loved ones. With the right planning and design, it’s possible to create an aesthetically pleasing home that is also functional and fully equipped to meet your needs - regardless of age. What’s more, by investing in design modifications for comfort and accessibility, you’ll be preparing your home for the future, while also having the resources and time to remain independent.