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Home for the Elderly: 9 Design Considerations

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Kid and Elderly Friendly Home: Senior Living Homes

Are you planning to build a new house or renovate your house? If you are, will your design ideas turn your house into a home suitable for your old age or will it be a problem?

Take advantage of this rebuilding and renovating stage to turn your house into a home of the future. A place that is comfortable, safe and secure for everyone. Your house features must be comfortable and friendly for your kids when they are still young and as they grow older. It must also be right for you as a young parent and as you get older. Design it as your future senior living home!

This article covers the following elderly home design topics:

  • Door knob handles
  • Safe and secure lighting
  • Position of electrical sockets
  • Electronics with adjustable volumes
  • Bathroom safety
  • Kitchen design layout
  • Steps at main entrance
  • Stairway handrail
  • Interior design styles
Design your house to be kid and elderly-friendly so it will be suitable for your old age

Design your house to be kid and elderly-friendly so it will be suitable for your old age

Needs of Older People and People With Disabilities

Problems with some of the existing house designs are narrow entrances and doorways, which make accessibility with wheelchairs difficult. Stairs are narrow and steep, and kitchens and bathrooms are not easily accessible. These possible design oversights failed to consider the needs of older people or for people with disability.

For Senior People

Consider the following simple design options to turn your present house into a home that will be safer and more secure for your old age.

1. Door Knobs Handles

A door handle can either be in the form of the doorknob (round) or door lever. It comes in various designs, shapes, and functions. Some can make a simple plain door look grand and expensive. But some designs can also be difficult for children as well as for older adults suffering from arthritis, and this can be stressful.

Door Levers

Use the door lever instead of the doorknob as the lever will be easier for children and older adults to use. It is also easier to use if your hands are wet and slippery or if you are carrying something with both hands. In which case, you can still open the door with your arm.


2. Good Lighting for a Safe and Secure Home

Properly lighted areas will ensure a safe and secure home. You do not want to have a bad fall because of poor lightings. Lightings should be ample but not glaring as it will affect mobility for the elderly.

  • Pay close attention and provide sufficient lightings to outdoor areas, reading areas, bathrooms, stairways and in workspaces such as garage and kitchen.
  • Fix under the cabinet lights to cooking area and kitchen counter.
  • Install light switches at both bottom and top of stairways.
  • Use large rocker-type light switches, as it is easy and convenient especially if you are arthritic. When your hands are full, you can always use your elbow to switch on the lights. It may cost more than a conventional light switch, but it is more user-friendly to the young and old.
  • Night-lights are useful when you need to move around at night like going to the bathroom.
  • Emergency lights will be handy when there is an electrical blackout. It must be fixed at the stairways, kitchen, and exit doors.
  • Lastly, install a sufficient number of windows to bring in natural lights into the house. As people get older, the benefits of sunlight therapy are tremendous as it is a cure for depression in old people. It is also a source of vitamin D, important for better absorption of calcium. Sunlight can also be brought into your house through glass doors and skylights.

3. Plug Points Position

If you suffer from a backache, you will know how painful it can be by just bending over to switch on your computer or any other electrical items.

Plug Point at Table Top Height

It will be easier to plug or unplug an electrical device from plug points placed at a tabletop height instead of 1-foot from the floor, especially when you are older or suffer from a backache. Interior design-wise, this location may not look great but if fixed properly, it can still be presentable.

Additional Plug Point

Eliminate the use of extension cord as people, whether young or old, might trip over it. Install additional plug points if you foresee more usage within that area.

4. Hearing Problems

Hearing can be a problem as we age and installing devices that such as smoke detectors with a strong strobe light instead of just sound will assist people with hearing problems.

A Doorbell must be audible in all rooms and for additional security, buy an intercom that doubles up as a doorbell.

Telephone with adjustable volume control and with large number keypad will be useful for people with vision, hearing or dexterity problem.

5. Safety in Bathroom

  • Wet bathroom floors can be a danger even for the young. Choose floor tiles that are non-slip. If you have a bathroom mat, buy the non-skid type.
  • Grab bar or handrail is another useful device to install as it helps you move around easily when getting in and out of the shower area or when using the toilet.
  • The toilet bowl and seat should be about 17-inches high as it will be less stressful on your knees and back. It may not be kid-friendly and to overcome this, place a non-slip step to help your child use the toilet.
  • The bathroom door should open outwards and not into the bathroom area. If someone falls and is near the door, you can still go in and help. Alternatively, fix a folding door.
  • Have a telephone extension in your bathroom in case someone gets into difficulty he/she can call for help.
  • Level style faucet will be easier to use for both children and elderly people. It will also be easier to control hot and cold water mixers.
  • For the shower, a pressure-balanced lever will prevent any possible scalding. Consider installing a hand-held showerhead in addition to a fixed shower head as it will be easier for people with limited mobility.

6. Kitchen Design Layout

An ideal kitchen layout should be in the form of ‘kitchen triangle’ linking the working distance between cooker, fridge, and sink. The bigger the triangles, the more walking you need to do. For the elderly, a smaller triangle will reduce the walking and be less tiring. You will need to compromise on this kitchen layout to meet your current needs and your future requirement, as you get older.

A wall oven fixed at a suitable height will be easier to use without having to bend over if it is the floor standing type.

7. Steps at Main Entrance

When possible, design your house with no steps at the main entrance. The door opening and hallway width should be at least 3.5 feet wide. This is to allow for easy wheelchair movement.

Have it well lighted and placed a bench near the entrance. This is useful in case you need to place something while you unlock the main door. The bench can also be a place to sit while you tie or untie your shoelaces.

8. Stairway Handrail

Install a handrail on both sides of the staircase and extend it beyond the first and last step. The step should also have a different color scheme or design to mark the edge of each step.

If you are building a new house, design your stairway with a gentle incline. This will take up more space but it will be easier to use as you get older.

9. Interior Design Styles

In addition, consider the following design style issues that will affect the elderly:

  • If you like to have rugs or carpets over your marble or tiled floors, place carpet underlay to prevent slipping and tripping over them.
  • Older people may suffer from impaired contrast perception. So, you have to introduce high contrasting colors to the foreground and background. For example, the toilet seat must contrast with the floor colors, a drop in floor level must have different colored tiles or floor finishes indicating the drop, and chairs must be of a different color to the floor to ensure better visibility of the chairs edge.

Simple Modifications for Senior Home Safety

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Mazlan A


Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on March 22, 2020:

Hi Rampa, thank you and I hope to see photos of some of the safety features that you had implemented in your new 3-generation homes. Congrats and thanks again for dropping by.

Rampa on March 22, 2020:

Thanks a great deal for your wonderful outlines for building my 3-generations living home. I will definitely apply all your safe and practical ideas

Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on August 11, 2012:

@Emma Harvey , thanks for the compliment and I am glad you find them useful. Congrats on your D-day!

Emma Kisby from Berkshire, UK on August 02, 2012:

I really like this hub - it has some brilliant ideas to make life easier for older and younger people.

The small details such as easy to open door handles can be overlooked, but it's vital for those who cannot grip so easily.

Night lights are a good idea too. I personally like touch lamps which go on by touching the base rather than searching for a fiddly switch - easier in the dark!

Love this - vote up!

Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on July 26, 2012:

A special thanks to all of you for stopping by and leaving good comments! Redesigning our house to meet our future old age requirement is only a small investment for future convenience.

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on July 25, 2012:

An issue we'll all (hopefully) have to deal with someday! Thanks for outlining the important considerations.

Dianna Mendez on July 22, 2012:

I can see where some of these ideas would help me at this time! Great suggestions for those who are remodeling or purchasing a home for their elderly people. Voted way up!

Shouldibuystock from United States on July 22, 2012:

Very nice hub on making homes age accessible. I talk about some of the very same things on my website . As part of their job occupational therapists have to make assessments to modify homes to make them accessible for elderly people.

Om Paramapoonya on July 22, 2012:

Thanks for these awesome tips, greatstuff! My mom and aunt have been planning to remodel my grandma's bathroom to increase safety. Installing grab bars and switching to non-slip floor tiles sound like wonderful ideas! :)