By Ted Yudelson
As more and more people move into their so-called Golden Years, we increasingly hear about “Accessible Design” and “Aging in Place.”
According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), current statistics show that upon retirement, 80% of seniors prefer to grow old in their own homes. This is referred to as “Aging in Place,” but successful “aging in place” demands that one’s home and household products not only provide continued enjoyment and stimulation, but also support one’s declining functional limitations and enhance one’s quality of life. Therefore, aging in place requires careful planning and home modifications may be necessary to accommodate physical, mental and psychological changes that may accompany aging.
Accessible design is a design process in which the needs of people with disabilities are specifically considered such that facilities can be independently used by people with a variety of disabilities.
Some of the most common types of accessible house designs are:
- A visitable house which includes basic accessibility features that allow most people to visit, even if they have limitations such as impaired mobility. Basic features include a level entry, wider doors throughout the entrance level and a washroom on the main floor.
- An adaptable house which is designed to be adapted economically at a later date to accommodate someone with a disability. Features include removable cupboards in a kitchen, or a knock-out floor panel in a closet to allow installation of an elevator. This approach is also known as FlexHousing™.
- An accessible house which includes features that meet the needs of a person with a disability. Most accessible houses feature open turning spaces within rooms, wheel-in shower stalls and kitchen work surfaces with knee space below.
AGING IN PLACE
Aging in place is the ability to remain in one’s home safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level throughout one’s changing lifetime.
There are numerous elements of a home that must be considered and potentially adapted so one can effectively stay in their home longer. The design treatment of these elements must also be adapted for one’s level of mobility which could include walkers or wheelchairs. The list below is just a sampling of some of the many questions a designer must consider when pondering the notion of “aging in place”:
- General access: How one can effectively get in and out of the home and circulate through it?
- How can one best live on more than 1 level? Should a stair lift or elevator be considered?
- Is ramp access required?
- Are walking surfaces slip resistant?
- Are lighting levels appropriate?
- Are door widths wide enough and hardware easily managed?
- Can doors be easily opened?
- Might one need additional grab bars, handrails and guard rails to aid circulation?
- Kitchen design:
- Are appliances and storage areas at an easily accessible height?
- Might knee-space be needed below work surfaces?
- Can one easily move around the kitchen area?
- Bathroom design:
- Are fixtures (toilet, bath, shower, sink) easily accessible?
- Might knee-space be needed below the sink?
- Can faucets be easily used?
- Are mirrors at an appropriate height and angle?
- Are grab bars required?
- Are walking surfaces slip resistant?
- Bedroom design:
- Can one easily get into and out of bed?
- Are storage areas easily accessible and reachable?
- Are light levels appropriate and switches easily accessible?
- Laundry area design:
- Are fixtures easily accessible? Might front-loading versus top-loading machines be more appropriate?
- Are work areas easily manageable?
With all this in mind, one should also be aware that government financial assistance is available to help with costs that must be incurred to make a home more accessible. For more information on the government program called Programme d’adaptation de domicile, you can:
- contact your local municipality, MRC, or CLSC
- contact client services center of the SHQ clientele by calling Toll-free at 1-800-463-4315, or by e-mail at email@example.com
- contact the Services Québec office nearest you
- check out the following website: http://www.habitation.gouv.qc.ca/fileadmin/internet/documents/depliant_pad.pdf
In subsequent issues, we will take a more in-depth look into the accessible design of various areas of the house because there’s nothing like staying in your own home as you age.