When beginning the transition to age in place, just about all of my clients ask me if their home is going to look clinical or institutional after the renovations are done. The answer is “no” – no one aging in place should have to sacrifice design and aesthetics for function and safety.
Finding stylish aging-in-place home furnishings is much easier now than even ten years ago. More companies than ever before are sensitive to the desires of aging Americans and are working hard to produce furniture and fixtures that are aesthetically pleasing and beneficial to all ages, especially those nearing retirement.
Aging in place and aging in style can coexist. Here are four design tips you can incorporate into your aging-in-place renovation to keep your home stylish and modern for years to come.
- Light It Up!
Increased visual impairment is common as we age, whether it’s a decrease in contrast sensitivity or an increase in sensitivity to glare. Because of this, an age-friendly home can never have too much lighting. An abundance of lighting, however, doesn’t have to come at the cost of design preference. In fact, lighting can accentuate different design features in your home.
Incorporating recessed lighting in a room that only has one light source can help diffuse light and accent decorations in the room. For example, recessed lighting can be used above a case display. It provides lighting for the room but also draws your attention to the items within the case by illuminating them.
Additionally, bright sconce lighting can be used in hallways. Wall sconces can be mounted either up or down and can be used to create a dramatic change in lighting. As you walk through a hallway, you’ll notice there are some shadows that cannot be reached with the use of only a ceiling light. Wall sconces come with a variety of different fixtures, so you’ll always be able to match them with the rest of your home’s décor.
One important note about lighting: some of your lighting preferences may require rewiring, relocation, or new construction elements. DO NOT attempt to make these renovations on your own. Consult a certified aging-in-place contractor to help you meet your lighting goals and requirements.
Check out these well-designed lighting fixtures for the modern aging-in-place home.
Recessed Lighting Set by Hykolity
Recessed lighting is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to incorporate practicality and style into any home. This recessed light set from Hykolity is a 12-pack of 6-inch lights, a great size for most areas of your home and with enough lights to highlight a large or small area. This set is also dimmable which can be a huge advantage for aging eyes sensitive to glare.
For tips on installation and other recessed lighting recommendations, check out my article, “How to Install Recessed Lighting for Aging in Place.”
Bedside Sconce Lamp by Acegoo
Because aging eyes need more light, a bedside lamp is an extremely important aging-in-place fixture for making the bedroom safer at night. A quality reading lamp is a must and a wall-mounted sconce just above the bed is the best way to make sure your parent has concentrated light where they need it most. This bedside sconce is a very modern, stylish take on the traditional headboard lamp. It’s dimmable, has two light settings and is 360-degrees adjustable so your parent can completely customize the lamp for their needs. This is a great choice for giving your parent a good source of light to read comfortably at night and make their way around the room safely.
For more information about aging-in-place lighting, check out our Ultimate Guide to Lighting.
2. Be Smart About Faucets
While you may not often think about how fixtures affect your daily life, they actually impact it quite a bit. As we age, they actually take on a greater role as our dexterity diminishes or our grip gets weaker. While drawer handles and doorknobs are important, one of the most important fixtures for your home—and your health—are your faucets.
The types and styles of faucets have come a long way since the mid-20th Century, and age-friendly faucets no longer have to look like they’ve come right from a hospital room. Faucet makers now understand the need for stylish designs that are easy to use for older hands.
When focusing on faucets, there are a variety of different finishes to choose from: bronze, copper, silver, chrome, and more. To stay consistent in design throughout your kitchen and bathrooms, you’ll want to narrow down your search by finish first. This ensures you’ll find an age-friendly faucet that comes in the finish you desire.
Some of the best faucets to use in your new aging-in-place home are ones that utilize smart technology. Most are controlled by sensors, removing the need to use knobs, or controls that regulate the temperature of the water. Quite a few faucets are a combination of both technologies, giving the user the benefit of a hands-free wash with the efficiency of a digital system.
Here are some of the more stylish faucets out there today that are equally safe for the aging-in-place home.
American Standard can always be trusted to create a beautiful and safe faucet. Their Edgemere faucet handle in brushed nickel is anything but ordinary. Its timeless style will add a high-end look to your bathroom. And, it’s also ADA-compliant with a lever that’s comfortable and easy to use making it an all-around perfect choice for aging in place.
This shower faucet handle also comes as a trim kit set with coordinating showerhead for an even higher-end look – Edgemere Shower Trim Kit in Brushed Nickel.
High style meets serious practicality with this high arc kitchen faucet by Miseno. Miseno is a lesser-known faucet manufacturer compared to some big-name brands, but they make a quality product that will benefit any aging-in-place home. Its high-arch spray head comes in three stylish finishes – flat black, stainless and polished chrome. This faucet demands attention and will keep your kitchen looking modern years after your aging-in-place renovation.
Learn more about faucets for aging in place by checking out our Ultimate Guide to Faucets.
3. Install Practical, Safe, Aesthetically-Pleasing Flooring
The type of flooring you install can change how you live without changing who you are. Slip-resistance, ease of movement, and cushioning are all factors to consider for flooring safety, but none of these features mean you’ll need to sacrifice style. Virtually all of the top brands—Armstrong, Mohawk, Lumber Liquidators, and others—provide safe flooring options in a variety of modern designs and styles.
If you enjoy the look of wood floors, you might want to consider either cork flooring or vinyl or linoleum flooring. All three have endless design options to choose from while still closely resembling wood flooring. You’re able to get ideal flooring for aging-in-place homes with the look of a design trend that is sweeping renovation projects everywhere.
When including this type of flooring, you may want to include area rugs to break up the space. Unfortunately, area rugs can pose a risk and may cause tripping or slipping. If you insist on having an area rug in your home, make sure the rug is heavy enough to stay in place or that it has skid-resistant backing. It’s also a great idea to use transition strips on the edges of the rugs to reduce possible tripping accidents. Transition strips can easily be matched with your flooring for a seamless look.
Slip-resistant, stylish vinyl and laminate floors are most often my recommendations to aging-in-place DIYers. And, as I mentioned, a few added flooring accessories can also give added layers of safety. Here are some of my go-to flooring products for aging in place.
This is a great flooring option for aging-in-place homeowners who want a slip-resistant floor but don’t want to settle on style. Luxury vinyl mimics the look of real wood. This floor from Diflart has a walnut wood finish, is easy to clean, and is shock-absorbing so it’s comfortable to walk on more so than other options. And, since these planks are 100% waterproof, this is a great flooring option for bathrooms. For all of these reasons, it’s one of my top picks for aging in place.
Laminate is another smart aging-in-place flooring choice with a ton of style options. Like vinyl, you can find laminates in any number of wood finishes and plank widths to match the look of your home and maintain your style even as you renovate for aging in place. This laminate from Turtle Bay Floors looks like a modern wide plank maple with a cool grey color – perfect for today’s modern homes. The only drawback to laminate is that, while durable, they’re never 100% waterproof. If you decide on laminate, stick to your kitchen, hallway or other areas of the home but avoid bathrooms where wet floors are more common.
You can read more about other slip-resistant vinyl floors for aging in place and find installation tips by reading my article, “How to Find Flooring That’s Safe, Inexpensive and Easy to Install for Aging in Place.”
Adding non-slip treads to the floor of your tub or shower is an aging-in-place must-do. They’ll be the easiest and least expensive upgrade you make and will have an immediate impact on the safety of the most accident-prone room in your home. These bathtub sticker treads are completely customizable. You can cut them to size and place as many on the floor as you’d like. They’re strong, won’t peel, and will stay in place. You can also add them to the floor just outside of the shower to increase traction for added safety.
Read more about age-friendly flooring by checking out our Best Flooring Options for Aging in Place.
4. Use Modern, Comfortable Furniture
Who says safe, comfortable furniture can’t also be visually pleasing? Aging-in-place furniture no longer has to look like it’s made for aging-in-place. As more people choose to age-in-place, more manufacturers are recognizing the need for and are coming up with alternatives that meet the competing criteria of comfort, function, and design.
As you begin to think about how you want to furnish your living space, be mindful of how much space you really have. Generally speaking, many older adults are planning to downsize or have already downsized into a smaller home. Oversized chairs and bulky furniture may look comfortable, but they can also cramp small areas, creating impediments to maneuverability and take away from the appearance of the room.
Make sure to downsize your furniture as you downsize or remodel your home for aging-in-place. It will create more space and make it much easier to navigate through the room. Keep in mind that incorporating smaller furniture into your home doesn’t mean you will be plagued with dainty and uncomfortable seating. In fact, many chairs, couches, and tables combine sturdy and sleek elements to create space-saving furniture that is appealing to a variety of homes and design preferences.
If you’re locked in to oversized or bulky furniture as part of your design preference, consider making renovations to the room to accommodate your style. Eliminate a closet to add more space or remove room dividers and/or non-load bearing pillars to create a “great room,” where larger furniture won’t get in the way.
Here are two seating options that can help you create a stylish home without overcrowding your living areas. And that are, of course, safe and comfortable for the aging-in-place home.
Contemporary Upholstered Sofa by Zinus
I like this sofa for style-conscious aging-in-place design for a few reasons. First, it’s comfortable yet not oversized. As we age, it can be harder to lift ourselves out of a deep sofa. This option from Zinus is well cushioned without causing you to sink in too deep. It’s perfect for small spaces at just 79-inches in length yet seats three comfortably. It also comes in several contemporary fabric colors, including beige, blue, dark grey, soft grey and chestnut brown.
Power Lift Recliner Chair by ANJ Home
A little extra help getting up out of a chair is a big help as we age. This power lift recliner by ANJ Home lifts up so your parent can stand up out of the chair rather than having to push themselves up which requires far less strength. Beyond being practical and safe, this recliner has a modern soft grey fabric and has a relatively slim width – no puffy oversized cushions here. It’s a modern take on the recliner and well worth adding to your aging-in-place home.
What to Do Now
Maintaining a stylish home and designing for aging-in-place can coexist. With aging-in-place living increasing in popularity, there are more options than ever before for creating a modern living space that’s safe and comfortable as your parent ages.
As you plan your aging-in-place renovations, use the products on this list as your starting point. I’m here to answer your questions as you go, too. Just use the comments section below and I’ll guide you along the way. Good luck with your next aging-in-place home project.