I have just been reading an article in one of Marc Freedman’s (Freedman Financial) recent newsletter. Marc is a successful second generation financial planner from Peabody, Massachusetts who I had the pleasure to meet earlier this year.
His newsletter included an article covering tips on renovating the family home in retirement.
Coincidently, one of my favourite home improvement television shows, “This Old House” (Lifestyle Home channel) has also recently been covering the renovation of a home with retirement and ageing in mind.
Both Marc Freedman’s article and the TV series provide some very useful tips and guidance for those of us thinking of carrying out home renovations as we age. This Old House refers to a concept of “universal design”.
Wikipedia describes universal design as:
“Universal design (often inclusive design) refers to broad-spectrum ideas meant to produce buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible to older people, people without disabilities, and people with disabilities.”
Anyway, so much for setting the scene.
For many Australians, the dream of home renovation is part of our inherent being. We all have ideas about renovating a house at some stage in our life, whether it is the home we currently live in, or a stand-alone purchase we make for improvement and on-selling, or as an investment. For many, the renovation bug has bitten.
Most of us would undoubtedly like to stay in our home for as long as is possible. So putting some thought into the design before carrying out renovations makes a lot of sense. There is little point in installing a trendy spiral stair case to access all the bedrooms upstairs, if we see ourselves still living in the home when we are 90! Careful thought and planning now may extend the time we can stay in our own home.
Some of the things we can think about when renovating a home that may end up accommodating older residents include:
- Using low maintenance materials, particularly for exterior use;
- Designing doorways and windows that encourage cross flow ventilation;
- Incorporating simple to use control panels (touch pad) for the home security system and air conditioning.
- Consider locating all primary living on the ground floor (master bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living areas). It may not be needed yet, but may be valuable as we age.
- Install, or make ready for later installation, hand rails in the bathroom;
- Easy to use tapware;
- Wider halls, doorways and access.
- Minimal steps to and from the house;
- Incorporating minimum care gardens.
Let me be quite clear here – I am not advocating that our homes should look like an “old person’s home”.
However, some thought and intelligent design may extend the life of our home by making it more easily adaptable if and when the time comes when easier use and access is desirable.
And the by-product of adopting the “universal design” principal is, with an increasingly ageing population, our home might become more attractive to potential purchasers when the time to sell arrives.2