Aging in Place

Modern design done well is more than just aesthetics, it is also forward thinking and adaptable design that will age with you for decades to come. You planned and dreamed for years and have finally called a modern architect to design and build your perfect modern home. Once you move in you may never want to move again. Or you are building a new contemporary home and need to accomodate an aging family member. You need a home that will continue to be comfortable and, most importantly, safe for all ages. With a bit of planning and forethought, it is not only possible, but possible to do without compromising your modern design aesthetics.

Whether you are planning to age in place or are welcoming an aged family member into your modern home, contemporary designers and contemporary architects can help you to design a home that will age with you. Most are minor changes or substitutions to the design of a home as it’s being built that will make the home safer and allow for more independant and even extended quality of life.

Proper lighting and flooring are essential to safety for seniors since many have failing eyesight or impaired depth perception. To prevent tripping and confusion, choose lighting that does not create harsh shadows, such as indirect lighting. Indirect lighting directs light upward to wash or bounce off of the walls and ceiling instead of directly on the floor. Flooring itself should be as smooth and transition-free as possible. Wherever the flooring changes level, even by less than an inch (like from wood to carpet), make it as visually obvious as possible with a change of color or texture. Concrete floors, like those hand finished in modern homes are a perfect no threshold surface for the entire first floor of the house. For both walls and floors, avoid shiny or reflective surfaces and disorienting patterns that could affect depth perception and be sure to contrast the walls and the floor colors as well.

For mobility issues, consider chair rails or wainscotting on the walls that can be used as handrails in your contemporary house. This sounds like a traditional decor choice but a good modern designer can help you make this fit with the rest of the design. Shou Sugi Ban would be a gorgeous wainscot in a modern house or any house (see our Bento Box Shou Sugi Ban blog post). Keeping the main living spaces, including the bedroom and bathroom all on the ground floor will avoid the need for stairs and installing a bench seat and grab bars in the shower will assist with safety. There are grab bars on the market that look like towel bars and that will integrate beautifully in any modern bathroom. In the kitchen, an island with seating has the dual functionality of being both a gathering place and seating for meal prepping to avoid fatigue. Your modern builder can also install all drawers instead of doors below the counters to limit the necessary bending and squatting.

Many seniors also have trouble gripping or pinching. There a few easy ways to help them with that around your modern house. Choose handle pulls on the cabinets and door levers on the doors instead of knobs. They are easier for arthritic hands to manipulate. Other simple things like rocker panel light switches instead of toggle switches and awning windows instead of double hung help with independence and safety.

No matter your situation, whether looking to the future or planning to accommodate family right away, a few design considerations when building your modern home with greatly increase the adaptability and safety of your spaces. Since modern architecture lends itself so easily to these considerations, making these adjustments with forethought and a bit of guidance won’t impact your modern design aesthetic in the least.