Designing for the Long Haul

By: Holly Bayer, Interior Designer, ASID

There is substantial research to support an on-going trend in our society which impacts the design of homes across our country. Despite the continued battles Americans face with obesity, heart disease and cancer, we are living longer, healthier lives! According to the United States Census, the ratio of persons over 65 will more than double by the middle of this century to 80 million. More shocking, while in 1994 just 1 in 8 Americans were elderly, in the year 2030 that number will have become 1 in 5.

The direct result is a growing amount of the population who wish to stay in their homes for a longer period of time rather than having to rely on assisted living. It’s easy to attach the old, “I’ll think about that later,” mentality but when we add the current economic conditions and the number of homeowners who will be staying in the homes they’re currently living within, the life cycle of our building materials takes center stage!

Carefully considering the performance of the materials that will be used in and around your home is worth the added effort. If the details feel out of reach and overwhelming, drafts people, architects and professional interior designers are well worth the cost to the project to ensure that your home will perform under conditions that are present in your environment.

Exterior and interior materials are not the only factors that impact the way we live within our homes. Any room that involves, plumbing, electrical or frequent traffic patterns is quickly impacted by a change in health condition. To note, equipment to aid in walking, such as crutches, walkers or wheelchairs are not relegated to the elderly. Anyone, at any age can break an arm or leg and be required to avoid stairs and showers.

Take a look tonight within your home and consider whether it currently has the longevity to grow and support your family through all of life’s curveballs. The simple checklist below is a great place to start:

  • Traffic patterns and doorways are currently 32 – 36” wide or could be widened to accommodate this measurement.
  • Cabinets are designed to have a single action for use, such as more drawers than doors plus pull-outs. Also, fewer upper cabinets for those who are not able to reach. An added bonus: this inadvertently encourages children to help themselves and even set the table!
  • Pulls instead of knobs are used on door and cabinet hardware.
  • Within bathrooms, studs have blocking at 36” from finished floor to allow grab bars to be added later so that tile walls don’t have to be replaced.
  • Wall sconces do not project more than 4” from wall.
  • There is a curb-less shower or full size bathroom on the main level. Bonus points for a bedroom as well!