No one likes to imagine themselves getting old, but as the years catch up with you, or if you live with family members who are older or less able-bodied, it helps to know that the home you build today will be one you can continue to live in comfortably and safely even as you age. Here are some tips from several Singaporean interior design companies to consider if you are looking to build a house with senior-friendly designs for all levels of accessibility.
By Jaclynn Seah
1. Fuss-free floors
You might like the feel of fuzzy fur beneath your feet right now, but when you must think about rolling a wheelchair around a room or potentially breaking a hip from slipping on an errant carpet, Stanley Tay, project director from Y-Axis ID suggests considering matt-type homogeneous or high-end resilient flooring – these materials are non-slip and important when you have older folk who are not as steady on their feet.
The floor plan for a senior-friendly designed house should always have open spaces and doorways for easy maneuvering no matter your size or walking aid, with minimal obstructions like pillars, steps or jutting ledges that could be potential tripping hazards.
Interior designer: Y-Axis ID
2. Strategically placed furniture
Furniture around the house should be sturdy to help provide some balance and support for an unsteady gait, yet not fragile or have sharp edges that could hurt someone if they fell on it by accident. For wet areas like bathrooms and showers, grab bars help prevent slipping, and ledges for sitting in spots like the shower or by the front door ensure that weak legs do not suddenly give out.
“This industrial design comes with strategically-placed furniture. When it comes to interiors, smooth traffic flow in the home is crucial. Getting around the house can be made easier with well-placed furniture. Once the furniture is laid out, its position will always remain there so that the traffic flow remains the same,” notes Joseph Tan from MMJ Design Loft.
Interior designer: MMJ Design Loft
3. Light switches within easy reach
Nothing is more annoying than entering a room and finding yourself unable to find the light switch. Make sure commonly accessed features like light switches or electricity outlets are at a convenient height whether you are an able-bodied person or in a wheelchair, and not hidden behind furniture or other features that make it hard to reach. Steven Loh, creative director at Interior Diary, recommends that light switches be 80cm from the ground. This makes it accessible for wheelchair users.
Interior designer: Interior Diary
4. Adjustable storage systems
Those floor-to-ceiling storage cabinets may look very beautiful now, but you might regret not having easier-to-reach options when you can’t climb a step-ladder anymore. Make sure that important work surfaces, table tops and frequently used storage are all within reach and don’t require you to stretch too high or bend too awkwardly to use comfortably. Consider having easily adjustable options to cater to differently-abled members of the household, like a shower with adjustable heights.
“The design was inspired by the Scandinavian style with its timeless, uncluttered look, and the use of light wood surfaces. The black accent line that runs across the cupboard echoes the black track lighting on the ceiling to give a cohesive look. The concealed storage gives a neat appearance to the room, while open shelves allow easy access to frequently used materials. In addition, the overhead lighting is bright enough for seniors to search for what they need,” said Nicholas Teng, studio director at Urban Design House.
Interior designer: Urban Design House
5. Convenient design features
People tend to overlook the importance of smaller design features like taps, drawers or even door handles, but these are things you will interact with every day so it is important to pick a design feature not just because it is aesthetically pleasing or cheap, but for its practicality. Longer tap handles that you lift are easier on gnarly old fingers than tight circular dials that you must grip and turn, and larger raised switch buttons are easier for shaky hands to press. Make sure you test these features for yourself if possible.
“Cabinet handles should not be placed too high as it is dangerous for the elderly to climb up to reach for things. I would recommend closed cabinets as they are much easier to maintain as compared to open cabinets, which exposes the items. Another important thing to note is the flooring. Vinyl floors are warm and comfortable for the feet,” explains Ronnie Goh from Swiss Interior Design.
Interior designer: Swiss Interior Design
6. Lighten up rooms
Brightening your home space with natural light features is practical and helps those who don’t see so well navigate the house more easily and confidently. For darker corners and at night, make sure there is sufficient lighting but consider indirect light options and minimising the number of reflective surfaces to cut the glare for older, more tired eyes. Patrick Chia, manager at Home Concepts Interior & Design, explains that the walls and ceilings are painted white to make the room bright and spacious.
The white bright lights also add to the overall brightness of the space. Another thing to consider are having two-way light switches for easier access, or motion sensor activated lights that don’t require fumbling for a switch in the dark.
These are just some tips to get you started future-proofing your home with senior-friendly home designs, and to ensure that you will not have to make extensive changes to your home should age catch up with you later. Remember that senior-friendly design does not have to be purely functional and sterile looking, a good interior designer will ensure that you can maintain a stylish design while still having all the practical features you need.
Interior designer: Home Concepts Interior & Design
Article and images contributed by HomeRenoGuru and Nippon Paint.
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