Aging in Place: How to Design a House That Will Fit Your Needs in the Future

Older couple looking at laptop with their agent.

(Note: The following is excerpted from the original article, available online on the New Home Source website)

As the nation’s population ages, accessibility has become an important goal for many new-home buyers seeking to ensure that their homes will continue to fit their needs — or those of aging loved ones — in the future.

Homeowners who plan on aging in place — remain in the home of their choice for as long as they’re able — should incorporate the principles of universal design into the home. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) defines universal design as “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.”

Plan for Future Needs

Karen Smith is an occupational therapist who holds the Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) designation from the NAHB. When Smith purchased a new home about a year ago, she decided it was time to start to age in place herself. 

Smith purchased a 2,000-square-foot home in Dagsboro, Del., from Ryan Homes. The house has two stories, but the 61-year-old Smith uses the upstairs bedroom and bath for her home office, preferring to have her office space separated from the main living quarters of her home. “I thought the upstairs could become a caretaker’s quarters if that possibility happened,” she says. “Or for family members who come to visit who are able-bodied.”

Other than the office, everything else Smith needs is on the first floor, including her master bedroom. “This is my last home,” she says. “First-floor living was really important to me.”

Smith spent about $2,000 on options and upgrades to have the builder add a zero-step entrance from the garage into the house, blocking to reinforce the bathroom walls for grab bars, extra ceiling lights and a double shower rather than a tub/shower combination. “It was important to have a shower rather than a tub to step over,” she says.

The house already had wide hallways, a spacious bathroom and open spaces, all of which would allow for walker or wheelchair access if needed someday. “It’s really a nice way for me to start aging in place,” she says. 

Visit the New Home Source website for the full article and continued review of universal design features that support aging in place.