Sense-Sensitive Design for Seniors
“Aging in place” is the prevailing catchphrase for adapting a home to accommodate those who are growing older and wish to maintain their independence in a familiar environment for as long as possible. In such cases, design is focused primarily on implementing practical ways to create ease and comfort rather than spotlighting an inevitable but unpredictable decline. When possible, it is prudent to make adjustments before a crisis occurs so the homeowner can gradually adapt to the changes.
As people age, their five senses will ultimately begin to decline, causing potential safety issues in addition to hindering their ability to care for themselves. Many factors beyond mere age contribute to this, among them poor circulation, medication side effects, skin or nerve damage, or neurological disorders. Thankfully, the market continues to introduce new solutions, technologies, and design elements that are easy to use and fit naturally into an existing environment. This month RCI presents 20 safety tips for seniors, keeping the five senses in mind.
- Choose appliances with easy-to-read fonts and stark color contrast on display panels.
- Install toe kick lighting on a dimmer in the bathroom and kitchen. These can be adjusted to double as night lights.
- Use contrasting colors on walls and floors or on walls and outlets for those who are challenged with spatial and depth perception issues.
- Use matte finish paint instead of gloss to reduce glare.
- Arrange furniture so light falls over the shoulder when seated. Create wide paths between furniture for easier walking, especially for those who need the assistance of a walker or wheelchair.
- Look for a refrigerator with bonus lighting so those with a low sense of smell can see outdated or moldy food.
- Make sure the outdoors is well-lit and that the path to the front door clearly contrasts against the landscaping for an after-dark return to home.
- Use lever or touchless faucets to avoid twisting or turning of knobs.
- Furnish the kitchen with a comfortable high stool to allow for sitting at the counter while chopping and prepping.
- Invest in an induction cooktop, which is cool to the touch, to prevent burns or fires.
- Make sure cabinetry has white or light interiors so the contents are clearly visible.
- Purchase a refrigerator with slide out and see-through shelves and bins.
- Install grab bars and rails in the shower or tub and near the toilet.
- Install adjustable light controls in task zones so they can be modified according to need or task.
- Remove thresholds and install a curbless shower to eliminate hazardous falls.
- Add pull out shelves to lower cabinets so items can be retrieved easily.
- Connect a Sensi-Smart Thermostat, which can be adjusted via smartphone or synced with Alexa for voice-control.
- Use a showerhead with a sprayer attachment, making sure it has a long, tangle-free cord and buttons on the attachment itself.
- Install a video doorbell, which is helpful for the hearing impaired and adds a safety element for the elderly who live alone.
- Choose appliances with alarms that indicate completed cycles.
Implementing thoughtful changes ahead of time will make things less stressful if and when an emergency situation occurs. A little bit of research, combined with a few purchases and adjustments, will bring ease to those who are aging and peace of mind to their loved ones simultaneously.