How to Design Your Home to Improve Mobility

Whether you’re looking to move into a new home, redesign your current home, or design and build a home from scratch, there are several things that you can do that will improve the home’s usability and accessibility. If you suffer from mobility issues yourself, or your parents or grandparents are becoming less mobile in their elder years, you will find that these tips can greatly improve a home’s mobility and livability. Consider putting them into practice!

Adopt Wider Doorways

Wider doorways are a great idea for individuals who rely on a walker, cane, or wheelchair, as the wider openings greatly help with ingress and egress. Though widening a doorway on an existing home can be difficult (as it often involves breaking down a wall and rebuilding it), it’s easy to incorporate into a new build. If you are building a new home, consider putting in such a request with your architect during the development stages.

Even if you don’t currently need wider doorways, you may in the future, particularly if you plan to live in the home past retirement age. Take this into consideration if you are planning on buying or building a new home in the near future – think not just of your current needs, but your future needs as well. Likewise, if your parents have retired and are looking to sell their current place for a new house, look for homes with doorways that are wider than normal. They might not think about it.

Embrace One-Floor Living

One of the simplest things that you can do to improve a home’s mobility is eliminating the stairs. No, we’re not advising you to remove a second floor! That’s expensive and needlessly complicated. Rather, if you currently live in a multi-floor home, consider selling it and looking at single-floor homes instead. The benefits of a single-story house are many, and they are well-suited for elderly and aging individuals.

Thankfully, ranch houses are popular throughout the country. If you are seeking a single-story house, the odds are good that you’ll find one that meets your needs. But they are particularly favored in places like the Southwest and Florida, where there is plenty of open space. If you or your parents are seeking a new house, you can knock out two birds with one stone: improved mobility and improved weather! Leave the snow behind and head south.

Consider Ramps Instead of Stairs

Simple, effective, and relatively affordable, ramps are ideal solutions to rather pesky problems, and can transform a home’s mobility and usability. Even a ranch house may have some stairs to contend with, namely those on the front and rear entryways. After all, most home doors are slightly elevated above the ground. If your loved ones are looking at a home but have reservations because there are stairs leading up to the doorway, recommend a ramp. Just remember: don’t make the ramp too steep. The maximum recommended angle for an entry ramp is just 4.8 degrees, or one inch of elevation for every 12 inches or length. Thus, a ramp that has one foot of elevation would need to be at least 12 feet in length.

Incorporate Accessible Bathrooms

For individuals who use a walker, cane, or wheelchair, the bathroom deserves special attention, as simple changes here and there can truly transform a bathroom’s accessibility – and in turn, your mobility (or your loved one’s). Things to consider include a grab handle for the toilet, a walk-in shower (or walk-in tub; essentially, a bathtub with a door and seat), a lower sink for ease of use when in a wheelchair, an open floor plan, and accessible lighting (motion-activated lighting may be a worthwhile investment).

To further provide for your own safety while in the bathroom – or that of a loved one – consider wearing a medical alert system as well, like GreatCall’s Lively Mobile. These waterproof devices offer fall detection, emergency response services, and even GPS functionality. In a room where the floors are hard and it’s easy to slip and fall, you can’t be too safe. A medical alert system can offer peace of mind and help in the event of an accident. You may also take the extra step of installing foam floor tiles – rather than ceramic or wood – to further reduce your risk of injury.

Get Rid of Clutter

You don’t have to make drastic changes to the home to improve its mobility. Simply rearranging the furniture and eliminating clutter to provide for access lanes can have a huge impact, especially for individuals in wheelchairs or power scooters. Even older, smaller homes are fairly open before they’re filled with furniture. Remember this when designing your new home. What you put in it is often as important as the actual layout.

Make Your House Work for You

A home should work around your needs, not the other way around. If you or someone you love is looking to move into a new home, or redesign an existing one for mobility and accessibility purposes, remember this simple principle. Put the tips outlined above to use and you will find that the house is a help, rather than a hindrance. And really, shouldn’t that be the ultimate goal for any home?

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