In today’s society it is of course expected to find appropriate solutions all around us for the less mobile to gain access to various buildings and events, whether it be the hotel where you spent your last vacation, your favourite coffee shop, the grocery store, the local pharmacy, the library or an art gallery. However, increasingly more and more people are opting to stay put in their existing home as they age rather than move to somewhere that is already set up for those with reduced mobility. This may be for financial reasons, often because family is close at hand, or simply because other options would take you out of the immediate community that you love so much.
Creating a suite on the ground floor suitable for a parent to live close to family care as well as the grandkids is increasingly common as is altering kitchens and bathrooms to make them functionally more suitable for those with reduced mobility. So more thought is being given to renovating an existing home or individual rooms to make the home more suitable as we age with products such as walk-in tubs or low / no-curb showers, wheelchair accessible vanities/sinks, simply changing finished flooring to something with better grip, simple to operate single lever faucets, widening doorways to ease access via walker or wheelchair, incorporating more drawers in kitchens, and many other considerations to make our lives that wee bit easier as we reach maximum life experience 😉 Of course, the need to improve accessibility is not something that just effects us as we age. Whether it be as a result of illness, injury, disability, or simply due to a poorly thought out existing home design there are many reasons to consider the functionality of various elements of your home when renovating. Often it is possible to reconfigure an existing space to make rooms function better or, for example, to add an on-suite without having to actually build on an extension. In this example, we incorporated a “gantry” as part of a deck renovation to access a higher sitting area in their steep backyard. We are currently finishing off a bathroom renovation incorporating a walk-in tub and a vanity with drawer storage … and we also moved (and widened) the door to improve access. With another project, we added a master closet & master bathroom as well as creating a walk-in closet in the 2nd bedroom & moving the back door/entry … all within the existing footprint and all for less than it would have cost to build just the framework of an extension. This was possible due to a poorly thought out hallway and laundry room which meant there was wasted space just waiting to be put to better use.
So if you or a family member or friend is considering a renovation to improve accessibility or of course for any other reason as always we would love to hear from you. We have worked in large multi-million dollar homes to small 1 bed apartments and everything in-between so we have a very flexible approach depending on the specific requirements of each client.
And before I forget … a little starter list (in no particular order) for some of the areas worth considering if improved accessibility in the home is on your mind:-
- consider form (what’s each element of the homemade from and is it built well with the intention to last ie. reduced maintenance for someone without the mobility to do lots of work on their home), function (is an element designed specifically to cater for someone with reduced mobility/dexterity or is an existing feature of the home going to present them with ongoing challenges), feasibility (how realistic is it to make necessary alterations to the existing home within your budget) … for example, if you live in a split level home where access is either up or down via stairs in both cases and building an extension as slab on grade is not permitted then the options for adding accommodation for someone who cannot manage stairs are obviously limited.
- grab bars in a bathroom (shower/tub, beside toilet, etc)
- bath seats and benches
- single lever faucets
- wall-mounted sink(s)
- lever handles on doors (replacing knobs)
- motion sensing lights
- doorway widths
- remote control access for fireplace
- access ramp to front/back door
- comfort height toilet(s)
- kitchen range with front controls
- adequate lighting on approach to front door/porch
- stairs to code (correct tread depth, correct riser height) … some stairs may be rather steep especially if they do not have the nosing (overhang) required by code
- sheltered seating area in the yard
- do rooms flow on the same level without unnecessary changes in level?
- raised garden beds for easier access (not as far to bend)
- better quality doors and windows for improved efficiency (fewer leaks) and hence better comfort in cold or hot weather
- proper insulation in walls, attic, around windows/doors & even electrical outlets … again for overall comfort; those with reduced mobility may suffer from the cold more than those of us who have full mobility
- if you intend to add a bedroom to the ground floor for accessibility reasons, is there a full bathroom on that level or at least reasonable access to plumbing/venting/drains otherwise it could be a costly addition?
- are hallways and areas around cabinets and bathroom fixtures spacious enough for someone in a wheelchair to navigate with relative ease?
The list goes on with many fairly obvious considerations and some perhaps not so apparent.