Whether retirement is just around the corner or several years down the road, it’s a good idea to plan ahead when designing your log home. After all, people are living longer than ever, enjoying their retirement for many years. Since most people build their dream log home with the view that it will be their final home purchase, it just makes sense to incorporate some provisions for aging into your home design.
In recent years, there has been a big push to incorporate “universal design” into more and more homes. Universal design is simply the concept of making living spaces both comfortable and accessible for all, regardless of age or physical limitations. Another term popular today is “aging in place.” The basic concept is quite similar to universal design: making home designs or modifications so that people may live in the comfort of their own home well into their advanced years.
Whether you live in an existing log home and wish to make some modifications, or you are designing your log home from scratch, there are ways you can make your home more accessible to seniors. Read on to find out how.
1. Open floor plans and single-level living
Even if your home has multiple stories, you may choose to design your log home with the master suite, kitchen, great room, and laundry room all on the same floor. Having your main living areas together helps to keep walking and navigating stairs to a minimum. Also, many people are designing their homes so that their kitchen, great room, and dining area all interconnect in one open space. Not only does this allow for better wheelchair mobility, if needed, but it also allows for plenty of space for visiting grandchildren (another of retirement’s perks!).
2. Wider doors and hallways
In cases where wheelchair accessibility is a must, wider doors and hallways will help this person navigate more easily throughout the house. These wider spaces will not be noticeable to visitors and will help you or your loved one tremendously.
3. Elevator or chair lift
Many people today are equipping their homes with an elevator or char lift in order to prepare for their elder years. Both elevators and chair lifts allow seniors the freedom they desire to utilize their entire home, instead of being relegated to a single floor or living space. Elevators and chair lifts also give families peace-of-mind, knowing that their loved one will not be injured falling down the stairs. Even if an elevator is not in the budget now, consider building a large closet that may later be converted into an elevator.
4. On the level
Plan your home so that entryways are flush with exterior walkways. Avoiding steps could save you or your loved one from a debilitating fall.
For garages, in which building codes stipulate that the garage floor must be lower than the main floor, consider building a small ramp instead of a step.
5. Kitchen ideas
Don’t design a cramped kitchen. As we age, space becomes a bigger issue, especially if walkers or wheelchairs are concerned. Make sure there is plenty of space in your kitchen to move freely.
Consider raising the height of both the dishwasher and oven to avoid strain when bending over. If a wheelchair will be used, you may wish to consider ordering these appliances with side-swing doors to make them more easily accessible.
Lower cabinets can be modified to include pull-out shelves, which will greatly reduce the strain of bending over to reach into the back of the cabinet. Upper cabinets can be fitted with pull-down shelves. This will reduce the amount of reaching and straining while still ensuring the use of that cabinet space.
If you have people of various physical limitations living in your home, you may wish to consider installing a motorized sink, which can be raised and lowered to accommodate anyone.
Consider a stove with front-mounted controls, which will eliminate the possibility of an injury caused by leaning over the burners.
6. Bathroom safety
More accidents occur in the bathroom than in any other room in the home. The possibility of accidents increases as we age. Here are some simply steps you can take to ensure bathroom safety:
Purchase a toilet that is the proper, or comfort, height. This toilet is typically 16 or 17 inches tall, plus the seat. If you’d prefer the more economical route, you may purchase a seat extender, which sits on top of the existing toilet seat. Most are approximately 5 inches in height and are very simple to install.
Consider a sink that is wheelchair accessible. These sinks are mounted to the wall and have space below them, which can accommodate a wheelchair. Another option is to install a double vanity with the sinks at different heights to accommodate everyone in your household.
Consider installing a tilting vanity mirror if you have wheelchair-bound family members. These mirrors are easily adjusted to any angle, making them perfect for people of all physical abilities.
Bathtubs can be especially dangerous for older people. Consider installing a large, curbless shower with a bench and hand-held showerhead. Another option is to install a showerhead with a slide bar that will allow the showerhead to be raised and lowered to varying heights to accommodate both seated and standing users. Hand rails should also be installed in shower stalls to help stabilize older loved ones.
Remember flooring when planning your retirement bathroom. Matte-finish or anti-skid tiles are a good choice, as they protect your loved ones while still giving you a classy, polished look.
7. Odds and ends
Turning a doorknob is a simple task, right? Not so if you suffer from arthritis or some other debilitating condition. Consider purchasing lever-style door knobs for all your doors. Levers are a good idea for faucets, too.
As we age, our eyesight suffers. Make sure all areas of your home, both interior and exterior, are well-lit to avoid falls and other accidents.
Consider designing your home with a large porch. Porches are not only beautiful, but they are also practical. They protect your home from wind, sun, and water damage, thus greatly reducing the maintenance on your home.
Consider installing a programmable thermostat, so your older loved ones don’t have to worry about the heating and air conditioning. Remote controlled lights and fans are a great idea, as they can be operated without leaving the comfort of your chair. Installing an intercom system throughout your home is another idea to consider, as it allows communication with other family members without the need to travel throughout the house.
Finally, consider building your home in a log-home community. Having neighbors close-by could be helpful in times of emergency. Also, many log-home communities provide lawn maintenance, security, and other amenities, which can be a huge help as we age.
Aging in place has never been easier. With some simple design planning, or modifications to existing homes, you can continue to live in your dream log home well after retirement. The comfort you find in your own home can’t be matched anywhere else, so take the steps necessary to ensure that comfort can continue for years to come.
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