Creating a Functional and Appealing Senior Space
By: Alexis Bonari
Most senior spaces, if focused on function over form, start to resemble medical facilities characterized by neutral shades, sparse decoration, and almost no effort to disguise items that remind seniors of their health conditions. While it’s indisputable that seniors need certain pieces of furniture and layouts in their spaces, these elements don’t have to be devoid of style and attractiveness. The following tips for designing successful senior spaces are both practical and sensitive, helping you to make the most of a room or building to satisfy seniors’ needs and desires.
Getting the Functional Elements in Place
- Stairs are an obvious challenge to seniors, so keep everything they need on one level of the home. If you’re preparing to have a senior relative live in your home, you can convert an office or college son or daughter’s bedroom on the first floor into a bedroom for your senior.
- To enhance a senior’s sense of independence, lower countertops for those confined to wheelchairs so they can continue to participate in activities like cooking.
- If possible, create a “wet room” instead of a bathroom for your senior. This means eliminating all curbs and obstacles in the bathroom so that seniors with wheelchairs or other mobility aids can use the shower more easily. A drain in a gently sloping floor can help accomplish this. You might also consider placing slip prevention mats in the shower area.
- Make sure that you have traction strips on any stairs or walkways outside your house so that your senior won’t be confined to the house in bad weather.
- Low storage areas are a must. They should be well above knee level, but still within reach of someone in a wheelchair. Make sure that you have these storage areas in kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom areas.
- Install railings and grab bars. If you have stairs and your senior isn’t wheelchair-bound, some railings on both sides of your stairwell can help increase their mobility from one level to the next. Grab bars should be installed for wheelchair-bound seniors to enable them to pull themselves to a standing position. They should be located near the shower, toilet, and other areas that might warrant standing up.