We are not getting older just smarter
No one likes to talk about getting older. I equate my aches and pains to years of racing triathlon, running half marathons and playing paddle tennis. We all love our active lifestyles but I realize as I have gotten older, I find I need more light to see what I am reading and prefer to not lift heavy plates and dishes into higher wall cabinets. I am not old but I realize that aging is a natural occurrence and this aging weekend warrior would like to make daily tasks easier for my achy shoulders and back. The best offense is a great defense and I like to think I am not getting older just smarter. Sustainable remodeling is very important to living well for all ages. Here are some easy to add living in place ideas for your home.
Hey its natural, our eyes need more light to see what we are looking at. Better locations of lights as well as brighter whiter lighting make seeing easier.
Task and ambient (a combination of general light and specific lights like under cabinet lighting) “layered in the room” are a must especially in the kitchen and bath. Lighting with diffusers or covers will help eliminate the hot spot effect bare bulbs have. Look for a color rating index (CRI) of 90 or better when choosing bulbs.
In bathrooms I like to specify motion activated LED lighting in the toe kicks of vanity cabinets. It provides illumination without that shock to the eye of turning on a light in the middle of the night.
For years, I have been a strong proponent of storing most used items below the counter tops. Not just for pots and pans, deep drawers outfitted with peg systems allow dishware to nest in an easy access location. Full access accessories have become the norm in kitchen and bath design. Everything can accessed with customized pull out storage. Sliding door storage has also become mainstream. Using the back splash space above the counter top with recessed storage accessed by sliding doors is also a great option. No more swinging doors in your face. The same principle is showing up in bathrooms. Accessible storage is here to stay.
Cooking is a great activity for the whole family. With today’s healthy living lifestyle, cooking is a life skill everyone needs. Believe it or not, the stove is the number one cause of house fires according to the National Fire Protection Association. Enter Induction cooking which has taken hold of the cooking world. Top chefs rave about it. If nothing is left on the burner, it turns itself off. No more low flames burning without notice or fearing little hands getting to close to the burner flames. Manufacturers have also incorporated automatic shutoff timers and child proof features for gas stoves.
Ever reached over an oven door to take out a large roast or a cookie sheet. I can’t count the number of times I have burned myself. Enter French door ovens. Just like the refrigerator, the doors swing out and away making access to the oven so much easier especially for a petite person.
Different counter top heights can be a life saver for a tall person as well as a petite person or someone seated. Lower counters work great for baking or chopping where a slightly higher counter is perfect to protect your back instead of bending over during food preparation.
The material is also an important consideration. I am a big proponent of matte surfaces. I never did like a shiny counter top which reflected all of the lights in the room as well as natural light from windows. Just like the effect a flashbulb has on your eyes, a bright reflection from a shiny surface can be uncomfortable.
Remember when you only saw those motion sensor faucets in commercial areas? Now, every manufacturer has incorporated “touchless” faucet technology into their products. Gone is the institutional looking faucet. Great when your hands are dirty and you don’t want to touch the faucets (think raw chicken) or for anyone not able to reach across the sink to the handle.
Knobs or open ended pulls can easily get caught on clothing. When selecting hardware for cabinets, think about who is opening the doors and drawers. I always ask both people to try out the hardware selected so it is comfortable for everyone’s hands. Small smooth decorative hardware can be tough to open for larger fingers or anyone with limited flexibility in their hands. Same goes for pulls. Make sure there is enough clearance to get your ringers around the hardware. Fingernails can easily damage frequently used doors and drawers. Same thing applies to the bath. Don’t forget grab bars. In the past, grab bars also looked institutional but that has changed. Decorative bars are showing up in the most luxurious spaces.
No matter the age, a high gloss or polished material is slippery when wet. Kitchens and baths are both high traffic areas where the slip factor is very important. Matte finishes, slight textures, even grout lines help reduce the possibility of slipping in any area of the home.
Many of these ideas seem suited to older adults and children but everyone will benefit from these elements. Of course it is easier to implement these changes during a remodel, but many can be adapted into an existing space. I realize that this all sounds like common sense but I am always surprised how many of my clients never consider some of these things. It is not about a fear of getting older, it is making things easier. I am happy to include anything that will make my life easier and more enjoyable. Remember we are not getting older we are getting smarter.