A lot of Aussie homeowners dream of living in their forever home. Most of them want to make this happen, so they decide to build it while they're young and able. The problem with this is, the home they built suits the lifestyle of their younger selves, not the next stages of their life. The good news is, they can always renovate to ensure that their homes reflect their current lifestyle and address their needs. Just keep in mind that renovating a future home also means future-proofing it. Never take design features such as the stairs and the shower for these become obstacles as a person ages. In this blog, we'll suggest everything that you can do to future-proof your home now. These modifications in every room of the house can make all the difference later on.
Accessing the second (or third) level
As we grow older, our movement becomes more limited and unsteady. It will be a challenge to climb up and down the stairs. With that, single-storey homes are more suited for the elderly.
(1) If you live in a two or three-storey house, consider placing the rooms you use more often downstairs. Make sure your bedroom and your bathroom are on the first floor. To make the staircase safer, install easy-grip handrails and carpet the stairs. These two make climbing up and down more comfortable
(2) If your lot can accommodate a second dwelling, consider building a granny flat. Moving in here is better than sending yourself to a nursing home. This way, you get the support and love you need from your kids and grandchildren. It brings your family closer together and keeps everyone safe.
Granny flats are single-storey structures. Everything you need is on one level.
Getting in the house
The entry is an essential part of your house. Yours should be wide enough and must have a big door. This way, it's easier to move new furniture pieces in and toss the old ones out. It's also more ergonomic for people using wheelchairs and walking sticks.
(1) Don't put a lip at the entrance. Age and injury can make it difficult for a person to lift their feet over a traditional threshold.
(2) Create a seating area in your foyer. A small chair or bench allows a tired person to rest for a bit, to put down the grocery bags, and to catch his/her breath, before walking a few more steps inside the house.
(3) Install solar and motion sensor light on the entry to keep it well-lit at night in times of need. No more looking for switches in the dark!
(4) Swap your round doorknob for a lever. There are times when it's hard to grip on something spherical.
Renovating the living room
Factors like age, critical illness, and disability can restrict a person's mobility. A spacious, open-plan floor plan makes it easier to move from one area to another. Leave ample distance between furniture pieces and walls to accommodate foot traffic.
(1) Prepare to knock down stud walls to adjoin the living, dining, and kitchen. Engage a designer and structural engineer first. You don't want to demolish load-bearing walls and end up with a disaster.
Changing the floors
Slips and falls are the most common causes of injuries of homeowners aged 65 and up. Most of the accidents happen inside the house. It's scary because it should be the safest place for them.
So, when renovating your forever home, take your twilight years into account. Give your home design features that help you avoid small accidents.
(1) Opt for non-slip floors. Carpet is the number one on our most recommended list. It's soft, cushiony, warm, and sound absorbent. Your other options are cork, linoleum, vinyl, bamboo, laminates, textured tiles, and hardwood floorboards.
(2) Use slip-resistant rugs to prevent accidents. Opt for area rugs and runners with rubber back.
Renovating the kitchen
The kitchen is one of the busiest parts of the house. It must be accessible from the rest of the house.
(1) Get an architect to lead the kitchen renovation. Request designs that more than beautiful. It needs to be functional and ergonomic.
(2) Replace lower cupboards with drawers. When you do, you won't bend down as much when reaching for something. Another option is to install pull-out trays inside the cabinets. Consider cabinets with pull-down doors as well.
(3) Design a movable kitchen island. Apart from design flexibility, this reduces the risk of dropping items in the kitchen and saves your energy when cooking/preparing food. Trolleys are helpful too. These reduce the trips required to deliver food from the kitchen to any point of the house.
Future-proofing the bathroom
Future-proofing your home requires you to make practical changes in your bathroom. Your goal here is to avoid accidents that could get fatal like slips and falls.
(1) If your budget allows it, hire a tiler who can re-do the floors. Switch to non-slip textured tiles. When your budget is limited, apply a non-slip tile coating on your tiled floors.
(2) Install grab bars near the toilet and shower to aid movement around the bathroom. This future-proof plan isn't just for the elderly. It's for all ages.
(3) Replace the shower cube with an accessible open shower. Make yours curbless, meaning the surface of the splash zone and the dry area must be flat to avoid tripping. Make sure to contain the wet area tho.
(4) Add a built-in bench in the shower area. It offers support for the toddlers, the elderly, and the frail members of your family.
(5) Install an adjustable showerhead. It makes showers so much easier.
Updating the bedroom
Don’t forget to renovate your private oasis: your bedroom. It’s the place where the day begins and ends. Opt for a design that you’ll be thankful every day.
(1) The doorways need to be wide enough for someone using a wheelchair or a walker.
(2) Your bed must be high enough to sit on and get out of. Add a bench seat to make it easier for you.
(3) Opt for a high bed. Modern beds are quite low, which is not great especially for the elderly. It’s not good for their backs.
(4) Clear the pathways or halls between the bathroom and the bedroom. You don't want to bump into something during night-time trips to the bathroom. If the budget allows, install handrails along the full length of the hallway wall.
Building wardrobes and other storage rooms
Storage is not a room, but it’s a necessity in ALL homes. You and your designer need to make sure that your wardrobe, pantry, cupboards, walk-in closets, etc. are accessible.
(1) Ensure good lighting. Consider using LED strip lights to illuminate your storage areas. Make sure that all light switches are within reach.
(2) Pull-out drawers are preferable to elderly people. Reaching to the back of the cabinet is easier with it.
(3) Swap hard to grip handles with ones that are easy to pull.
Loving the backyard
We understand how busy you are, so, as designers, we campaign for a safe, stunning, but low-maintenance outdoor space.
(1) Level the backyard with pavers. Opt for non-slip surfaces. Surround your outdoor space with native plants that are easy to maintain.
Our homes must reflect our lifestyle and must address our needs as we pass through the various stages of our lives. It must feel like a home to us every day, especially when the challenging times and our twilight years come.
Is future-proofing your home in your plans? What parts of your house would you like to modify? Share your thoughts in the comments section below: Liked this article? Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Or, ask help from our Sydney-based architects and designers.