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Designing a more accessible home

Your Life
Sunday 01 October 2017

If getting older has left you feeling like your home is not the haven it once was – perhaps because of difficulties maintaining the property or getting around like you used to – then you might feel as though moving out is the only option.

Downsizing is certainly a valid route to go down, but it can also be painful if you have formed a strong attachment to your home.

Luckily, if moving out of the home you love isn’t something you want to consider then there are other choices out there. A variety of different home design options can help you to reinvent your house into an accessible space that accommodates your changing needs.

Quick tip – accessible design isn’t just something to think about once you already need it. If you’re currently remodelling or looking into home improvements, it may be wise to think about changes that you may need later. 

One of the biggest essentials for staying in your own home is the ability to get to the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen and front door. Without the ability to access these areas of your home, staying put could be untenable. Here are some other key factors to think about...
  1. Access into your property: a grab rail by the door can help with a small step, while there are both portable and permanent ramps available for wheelchair users. We also recommend installing a security light which triggers when you’re outside after dark, as this will help you avoid trip hazards.
  1. If you struggle to answer the door, it may be sensible to give frequent, trusted visitors – such as family members – their own keys. If you ever require assistance and can’t reach the door this will be invaluable. You could also install an intercom system to speak to visitors before letting them in.
  1. Consider the path that you take throughout your house when travelling from room to room or accessing an important piece of furniture. If there isn’t enough space for you to move freely – especially if you require a wheelchair – then this is where some serious remodelling may be required.   Options will include widening doorways, removing a non-supporting wall in order to create an open plan space or installing grab rails to help you manoeuvre through tricky spaces. Handrails are also ideal for the stairs and bathroom (although a stair lift may be more appropriate if you’re worried about taking a fall).
  1. Relocating everything you need to the ground floor of your home can be a great way to ‘downsize’ without actually moving. If necessary, this may include moving the bedroom downstairs as well as any other essentials.
Depending on your needs and the current layout of your house, improving accessibility may be as simple as repurposing existing rooms or as complex as building an extension. In the latter case, you will want to speak to a professional to ensure that any work done is suitable for fulfilling your needs. 

As you can see, the steps needed to make it easier to access every important part of your home will vary greatly depending on your specific needs. However, there are a few general changes that can benefit people in most situations: find ways to let in plenty of light and avoid trips, use storage that brings everything important within easy reach, and install alarms or intercoms that let you reach out to family, friends or a carer.

Quick tip – before making any big changes to your property, you might want to consult with a professional who can help you avoid inadvertently decreasing the property’s value. 

Page last updated: Friday 07 September 2018