How to adapt your home

A few small changes to the design and layout of a home can make life so much easier for people who are elderly or are having mobility problems. The goal, obviously, with home remodelling of this nature is to make sure that everyone can use everything inside the house and in the gardens as easily as possible. Here are some things to think about when building an accessible home.

Space and rooms

People who use mobility aids, or have help from a carer, will need lots of space, so open plan designs are good here, as are wider-than-standard doors and hallways. Putting doorways opposite one another makes moving between rooms easier. Avoid mouldings which people might trip or catch themselves on.

A downstairs bedroom, and a full downstairs bathroom, will prove invaluable for people who find stairs difficult. Another alternative is a lift or stairlift. For people who can still manage stairs but don’t find them particularly easy, handrails on both sides of a staircase are useful. Solid steps are easier than steps with gaps, and avoid spiral stairs where possible.

You’ll need to pay particular attention to the bathroom when designing a house for a disabled person. A wet room has no step for you to trip on between the shower area and the rest of the floor, and the shower area is much larger, so it’s easy to fit a seat or handrails to reduce the risk of a fall. For those wanting to retain a bath, walk-in baths options handy, as are baths with built-in seats. Height-adjustable sinks and toilets are another great option for people with limited mobility.

Storage and specifics

Think about where storage, equipment and appliances are placed and how easy they are to use and reach. Cupboards underneath sinks and worktops, or very tall units or high shelves, won't be accessible to everyone, so adapt kitchens accordingly. Dressing tables, sinks and worktops with nothing underneath them allow people to sit at them comfortably; you can also get fold-out or extendable worktops, or lowered or dual-height surfaces.

People with arthritis might find handles difficult to twist or grip, so consider fitting sensor-operated taps and shower controls that are easy to turn, grip and reach. Instead of a traditional key to the house, you could think about a card or fob.

Outside, a ramp and handrail will help people access the front door, and handrails along paths will help those who are not very confident or steady on their feet to get out in the garden.

You might like to get advice from a registered occupational therapist on what would be best for you and your family, along with tips from an architect. Kent and south east London architects Bluelime Home Design have been helping homeowners and self-builders design practical homes for thirteen years. Contact our offices in Dartford, Bromley, Erith, Bexley and Croydon to see how we can help.

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