Good home design isn’t just about architectural style, proportions, and site orientation. It’s about thoughtful attention to you and to all those who will call this space home. Your home should meet your specific needs and allow you to live well, both now and in the future. The ability to stay in your home as you get older – to age in place – has a lot to do with how your floor plan functions.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the entire baby boomer generation will be 65 or older by the end of this decade, and 8 in 10 say they’d rather age in place than go to a senior care facility. However, a 2020 Census Bureau report shows that only 10% of homes are well-suited for aging adults. One way to ensure that a home can meet the needs of seniors is through universal design. This design approach seeks to create spaces that are accessible and usable by everyone, regardless of age or ability.
So what does a home look like that’s designed for independent living? There are several considerations to keep in mind:
Stair-Free Living - Falls present a major health risk for older adults, so a stair-free home is one of the best investments you can make for safety. This means that the garage, primary suite, kitchen, laundry, and living areas are all on one level, eliminating steps from your daily life. It could also mean installing an elevator or stair lift if you have additional levels.
Open Floor Plans- An open floor plan is not only a consistently marketable layout, but it’s the best option for safety as well. Open floor plans let in more natural light and reduce the need to navigate around obstacles such as walls or doors. They also give your home a sense of flow and ease. Wider hallways and door frames also ensure you can get through them with mobility aids like wheelchairs, walkers, or canes.
Bathroom and Kitchen Modifications - Bathrooms and kitchens are other areas where falls and accidents are more common. Making sure you have room to safely turn around is key, and bathrooms can be made safer by installing grab bars, non-slip flooring, a walk-in shower, and a raised toilet seat. In the kitchen and throughout the home, lever door handles and faucets require less hand strength and are easier to operate than traditional knobs, which can be challenging to grip and turn. Other easy to use fixtures and appliances include touchless faucets and rocker-style light switches that can make everyday tasks simpler and more comfortable.
Lighting and Flooring- Other considerations that make your home safer and more comfortable include ample lighting and non-slip flooring. Good lighting is essential as we age, because dimly lit spaces are harder to navigate in. Installing bright lights in the kitchen, bathroom, and hallways, and using natural light to the fullest extent possible can make your home cheerful, bright, and much safer. Non-slip flooring, such as cork or textured tiles, can help prevent slips and falls and provide better traction for mobility aids, especially in the kitchen and bathroom.
Fortunately, accounting for these independent living considerations doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice one square foot of style. Open floor plans are always in-demand, and if you’re looking to downsize to a smaller home for independent living, an open concept makes the space feel much larger. Smaller, one-level homes can be designed in any architectural style and layout you choose – from a cozy one-bedroom cottage to a larger ranch with room for hobbies, entertaining, and hosting guests.
View our collection of house plans designed with aging in place considerations: