When Keith and I were making the decision to move to Gainesville, Florida, we also talked about staying put in South Florida and renovating our current home. It was the live version of “Love It or List It” with David Visentin and Hilary Farr. LOL! Deciding whether to stay and renovate or move is a big decision. Especially when you consider aging in place.
Ultimately, we decided to move. But as we were building our current home, we kept in mind that this was going to be a place where we wanted to age comfortably. This played a role in many of the decisions we made during the construction process.
As you talk about your aging in place plans, think about your home. It could be done as part of a renovation to the home you have right now. Or building something new. Maybe a bit of both – buying a new home and then renovating it. Regardless, here are a few things we learned along the way when it comes to aging comfortably at home.
1. Appliances: I’m specifically talking about refrigerators, washers, and dryers. I know the current trend is to have the refrigerator freezer on the bottom. But that means bending over all the time! Same with front load washers and dryers. Think about how much bending you want to do all the time and are there options to have the latest while saving you some back pain.
2. Bathrooms: Three things to consider: adult height vanities (again, be kind to your back), “comfort height” toilets, and shower bars. If you’re not ready to look at shower bars in your bathroom, it is possible to have them pre-blocked during construction. Then that support structure can be utilized later.
3. Ceiling Height: We love high ceilings. They can make small rooms look very spacious. But changing out light bulbs and smoke alarm batteries can mean climbing very tall ladders. At some point, we must decide how many times we want to climb up on ladders when we’re 60, 70, or older. I hate climbing on ladders now and want to do even less of it when I’m older.
4. Drawers and cabinets: Just like ceiling heights, tall cabinets look fabulous. But depending on how tall those cabinets are, it might involve using a step stool to reach those top shelves. And our builder told us to focus on drawer pulls versus knobs. The idea being to minimize the amount of gripping we would need as we age. And as lovely as some drawer pulls look, they also suggested steering away from ones that might accidentally grab or snag clothing.
5. Flooring: This is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it can be helpful to have all wood or tile floors so there are no thresholds to possibly trip over. But then again, if we put rugs on the wood or tile floors, we run the risk of tripping over them. I wish I had an answer. It’s definitely an important conversation to have.
6. Landscaping: I love beautiful landscaping. I’m not a fan of yardwork. Keith likes yardwork. He finds it cathartic. We spent a lot of time talking about how much yard would give us the beautiful part we love without being a huge burden. While Keith loves doing the yardwork today, there might be a time when he doesn’t want to, and he shouldn’t feel guilty about it.
7. Lighting: Our home in South Florida was filled with natural light. We rarely turned the lights on during the daytime. Yeah, in the evening we turned lights on but not during the day. Gainesville is different. The natural light isn’t the same. Lighting is important because we need it to read, clean, etc. Not only do we need to plan for built in lighting, but we need to consider additional lighting in terms of lamps, night lights, outdoor lighting, etc.
I don’t know that anyone should duplicate what Keith and I did on our home. But I put this list together so you can have the same conversations and make the right decisions for you. I’d like to think that most of us want to enjoy our homes as we age. That means planning for both form and function when it comes to aging in place.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of New Orleans, LA