Design 101: Don’t Age in Place…Thrive.

“How can I make my home safer? What can I do to update popcorn ceilings?” Interior designers deal with these and many other questions every day. This month’s column focuses on ways we can future-proof our homes.

I am worried about my parents falling. What can I do to make the house safer?
Balance is an issue not only for the elderly, but also for any of us depending on the environment. It is extremely important to consider the slip coefficient of any surface, but doubly so in an area where water or grease are likely to be found. Your flooring provider should be able to ensure that you are making appropriate choices based on the location.
Pro Tip: Even when the flooring is slip resistant, you still need to make sure transitions between flooring types do not cause a tripping hazard themselves.

We are buying a new house and a single story home is not an option for us. What should we do about the stairs as we age?
Assuming that an elevator is not an option, you may want to consider installing a stair lift. Just check to see if you have power at both the top and bottom of the stairs. Once you are ready for a lift have a professional install it, this is not a good project to DIY.
Pro Tip: Even if you never end up needing a stair lift, having power at your stairs will come in handy. Just think about how much easier it will make installing an illuminated garland.

What are some easy and relatively inexpensive things I can do to “thrive in place”?
Adequate lighting is relatively inexpensive and very easy to upgrade. We strongly recommend LED lightbulbs which produce far less heat and consume less energy. Bringing up the general light level and adding in task lighting will help, but make sure to avoid causing glare. Harsh light off reflective surfaces is a significantly greater problem for our eyes as we age.
Pro Tip: One thing we suggest is looking for high CRI (color rending index) bulbs. We use bulbs with a score of over 90 in all our projects. Everyone can appreciate colors that appear closer to how they look in daylight.

Are there any other considerations we should be aware of for aging eyes?
One of the last colors we are able to see is the same as one of the first. Red is typically a good color to use when you are working with infants or adults with age-related macular degeneration.
Pro Tip: Contrast is the key, but don’t forget that there are a whole host of visual impairments. You may think that your red stripe provides good contrast on the stair runner; however to a red/green colorblind individual it might be entirely invisible.

What is something people often overlook when considering safety features?
Many of us think of balance issues, or poor vision, but few consider the dangers of a diminished olfactory sense. As we age, many of us lose a good portion of our ability to distinguish between smells. A natural gas cover with a pilot light that went out nearly killed several of our own family members. You should consider getting a gas detector, aging or not.
Pro Tip: There are many hazards that you cannot smell even if you have perfect olfactory acuity. Neither carbon-monoxide or radon have an odor, play it safe install a detector.

Yaron Linett
About Yaron Linett 18 Articles
Yaron Linett is the principal designer of Formal Traditional, a full-service design firm located in Warrenton. To submit your interior design questions, drop him a note at yaron@formaltraditional.com or visit www.formaltraditional.com.

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