“In 2050, the United States will be home to more than 80 million adults over 65, and San Diego County alone will see a 130 percent increase in this age group by 2030…”
This statistic served as a discussion catalyst at a recent event hosted by the San Diego Center for Civic Engagement in partnership with the UCSD San Diego Stein Institute for Research on Aging. At The Future of Age-Friendly Communities, retired AARP National Events Housing Consultant Laurence Weinstein explored the future of growing older in America. Examining the current built environment and the challenges that the elderly face daily in functioning through these spaces, Mr. Weinstein offered valuable insights to design aspects of public spaces, homes, and transit systems to better the aging process.
Over the past 40 years, Mr. Weinstein’s focus has been to influence design professionals and city planners to move towards people-friendly spaces that allow improved qualities of life – ‘livable communities’. Livable communities: communities where boomers, millennials, and everyone between can live and grow, are identifiable by diverse housing choices, good walking scores, appealing multi-disciplinary land uses, accessible transit options, and occupants of all ages. In order to develop such age-friendly communities, Mr. Weinstein advised that the initial steps towards these environments can first be implemented at home.
If we seek livable communities, we first need to learn to create them. At SGPA, we make it our mission to enhance everyday life through our designs. In this blog post, we’ve gathered expert design suggestions on how to make your home age-friendly.
Some basic essentials to create safe modern environments as part of age-friendly, livable communities.*
1. Lever doorhandles are easy to operate under all conditions for all people.
2. Faucet styles vary by need: Single lever high arc faucets with a pull down spray head are easy to use in kitchens and bathrooms, while touch-less faucets can eliminate the transfer of bacteria from raw meat while preparing meals in the kitchen.
3. Good lighting can be key to home safety and make daily tasks much easier for everyone to enjoy. Use brighter, glare-free LED light fixtures. Our SGPA Designers add that lights below 3000k promote healthier sleep habits because they do not simulate daylight. Brighter lights above 3000k are best used in work spaces.
4. A comfort-height, elongated toilet can reduce back strain and is easy to use. SGPA Senior Associate Alexis Burck notes that this style also makes it easier to get on and off the toilet because one doesn’t have to bend over so far to reach the seat.
5. A handheld shower head, particularly on a grab-bar slider, makes showering much easier for everyone. A true safety bar limits injuries from accidental falls. SGPA’s Designers point out that the slider must be certified as ADA compliant to be considered safe as a grab-bar.
Additional suggestions from our SGPA Wellness Studio Experts:
6. Finish your home with windows that require less strength and/or dexterity to operate. Casement/awning style windows, as opposed to traditional sliding or double hung, can be outfitted with larger, crank hardware that allows those with mobility limitations to more easily open and close windows. For those with dexterity concerns, there are some new window hardware options on the market, such as SmartTouch by Milgard, designed specifically to be easy on arthritic hands.
7. Selecting contrasting colors and tones for sinks and countertops, especially in bathrooms, can assist diminishing eyesight.
8. Be particular with window coverings: Drapes, rather than mini-blinds, require less dexterity to operate.
9. To avoid stooping and kneeling in the kitchen to see and find an item in a lower cabinet, use drawers that can be pulled all the way out so the contents can be viewed entirely from above, instead of doors that conceal interior shelving.
10. Equip your home with motion detection and timer operated automatic shut off accessories to avoid “forgetting” to shut off the stove.
Laurence Weinstein has taught at UC Berkeley in the Product Design and Architecture colleges and is the founder of Shared Solutions America. The program was co-sponsored by AARP to start a fund raising program to help create an ‘Age Friendly San Diego County’ organization with the goal of raising funds to build a ‘model’ user friendly home for public tours.
*Suggestions credited to www.Liveablehomes.org.