We have all heard of child-proofing a house. But have you ever wondered that senior citizens, who enter the ability domain of children with advanced age, may also need a senior-friendly home that is planned modifications to make life easier?
After Jadavpur resident Simanti Ghosh lost her mother, she decided to get her 75-year old father to live with her and her husband. But the change took a bad turn when the old man slipped in their bathroom and fractured his leg. The reason? Her fashionable bathroom tiles. Only if she had planned it well and got some anti-slip mats for her bathroom, the accident could have been avoided.
In many countries, specific codes of construction apply when building residences aimed at housing senior people. In India too, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation issued guidelines for building retirement homes. The ministry directive prescribes an elderly-friendly environment with physical specifications like hazard detection systems, constant power back-up, lifts, prominent signage, recreation, and care-giving outlets, etc. along with amenity standards that include round-the-clock medical assistance, transportation assistance, etc.
Modern aesthetic designs often have a young population in mind that end up being untenable for seniors. For the elderly, homes should have a seamless combination of comfort, safety, and convenience. Therefore, as the inhabitants progress in age certain modifications in the design structure of a house can enhance their accessibility and make a more senior-friendly home.
Here are some design specifications that can be considered:
Ensure Ease of Movement
With age comes vulnerability and weakness, moving around is a task wrought with fears of accidental falls apart from disability caused due to illnesses. Wherever possible, opt for ledges, inclined pathways or ramps in place of stairs so that movement is painless and also wheelchair accessible. When stairs are imperative, make sure that they are broad with sturdy railings for support and aren’t steep at all. In case of apartments not on ground floors, provision for lifts is absolutely essential.
Every new homeowner is attracted to tiles and ceramic flooring but these can be a tricky proposition for the elders. Senior-friendly homes should have non-slippery, naturally warm floors using options like terracotta tiles, mosaic, etc. For houses specifically meant for seniors, padded linoleum and rubber flooring could mean an added safeguard against accidental falls.
Of course, re-flooring a house isn’t always viable and in these cases consider placing carpets that ensure relevant cushioning too. Kitchen and bathroom floors should ideally have anti-skid tiles, and all rugs and mats should be secured with anti-slip underlays. Slippery floors and ultra-polished tiles are an accident scenario in the waiting for seniors.
Appliances and Fixtures within Reach
Any modern home of today is incomplete without a range of gadgets, appliances, and fixtures and for houses that have seniors, it essentially means an added ease of living. Make sure, therefore, that all such things are fitted at eye-level for easy operation. This holds true for storage units, cupboards, bathroom fixtures, entertainment gadgets, etc. When it comes to personal use, however, stay away from ultra-modern gadgets and opt for age-friendly options. Seniors would want an easy and self-sufficient life without too much fussing over things.
Senior-friendly Home Furniture and Decor
Create a spacious indoor plan that allows ease of movement without the possibility of bumping into things. Also things like low-slung chairs and tables, armchairs, beds at suitable heights and at least some form of sitting arrangement outside—like the balcony or lawn. Small things such as, doorknobs can often pain seniors who are suffering from arthritis. Hence, it is always a good idea to discuss and ask the seniors about things they would want to avoid as well as prefer, so as to make a perfect senior-friendly home.
A well-lit house is not only safer but much more cheerful as well. Seniors would feel more confident in their day-to-day lives as they go around with their own tasks when there is abundant lighting all around. Large windows can stream in much needed natural light during the daytime, while intelligent lighting options along passages, corridors, bathrooms, kitchen, and even inside cupboards and wardrobes can greatly help seniors live an easier life. Ensure focussed lights around bedsides to enable reading for leisure as well as important things such as medicine labels, emergency calls, and for ease of operation.
This is an important part of any senior-friendly home. Good connectivity means emergencies can be adequately dealt with. It is preferable to include both landlines and mobile telephone connections for a failsafe scenario. List all emergency medical contacts for ease of access.
Simplicity in design, maintenance and housekeeping translate to lesser risks and a better lifestyle for seniors. It is necessary to maintain a level of convenience that allows them to perform their physical and mental tasks so that general well-being is assured. Seniors would still like to be independent and these little steps to maintain a senior-friendly home helps them do that with their dignity intact.