I am writing this article from “my old Kentucky home,” the house where my parents have lived for the past 54 years. My siblings and I are working on a plan for updating the house to meet the changing needs of my parents as they get older. This exercise has prompted me to look at my own house and my own future with a fresh perspective. My partner, Philip, and I plan to retire in the next 10 years and remain in the Bay Area. Like many of our contemporaries, especially in the LGBT community, Philip and I are on our own without the support of children or family members who live nearby. This puts even more importance on planning ahead so that we can continue to enjoy our independent lifestyle as we grow older.
The concept of Aging in Place is a major trend in home design and remodeling and addresses the needs of those who want to grow older in the comfort of their own homes. The concept of Aging in Place is not about designing for the geriatric set. It is about creating living spaces that are comfortable, efficient and attractive for people of all ages. If you are planning to remodel or refresh your home, it makes sense to incorporate some of these principles into your plans, no matter what your age. Since this topic is far too broad to cover in a single article, I am going to address the fundamentals of space planning this month and focus on kitchen and bathroom design next month.
Door Openings: One of the best ways to enhance the accessibility of your home is to widen the door openings. Exterior door openings should be at least 36” to 42” wide and interior door openings should be 32” to 36” wide. These dimensions are about 4-6” wider than the average which creates a very comfortable transition from one space to another.
Door Styles: Look for opportunities to replace hinged, interior doors with pocket or barn doors whenever possible. The swing of a hinged door takes up valuable space and the door itself impedes movement when it is left open. Pocket or barn doors are more expensive to install but are well worth it in the long run. If you want to install a pocket door in the same wall with a light switch you can frame the wall about 2” wider to create the space necessary for both the door and the electrical box.
Traffic Flow: Every room needs to have a clearly defined and comfortable path for moving through the space. High traffic walkways should be at least 42” wide to allow two people to pass one another with ease. A 36” walkway is ideal in more private spaces such as a bedroom or home office. If you don’t have the budget to widen your hallways you can accomplish a lot by limiting the size and quantity of the furniture in your house.
Next month we will take on accessible kitchens and bathrooms.