Energy Star now ‘Elder Star’ certified design
I recently heard the term “Elder Star” compliant homes, just like the “Energy Star” appliances and lights that we have grown so familiar with. And I thought it was so apt! It’s high time we all spent a little more time thinking about meeting the needs of our elderly relatives. Having both parents in poor health for many years now and a mother-in-law who is paralyzed on one side and crippled by severe arthritis, this is often on my mind. So I thought I’d take some time to put together a list of recommendations based on personal experience, in dealing with my ailing family members. Green Point Rated and LEED, both award points for incorporating “universal design” principles, which addresses this need. But even if you don’t plan on rating your new home or remodel using GPR or LEED, you may well have to care for an elderly person at some point in your life. While you may not want to design your entire home for aging parents, designing even a bedroom and some key spaces in your home with their needs in mind will go a long way towards ensuring their comfort.
Universal Design Principles
1. A bedroom with a full bath on the main floor with no steps / level changes. Bathroom should be spacious to allow room for maneuverability with skid resistant flooring.
2. Motion sensor operated light at the main door entry casting plenty of light on the front door lock.
3. A sidelight by the entry door for safety and visual access.
4. Levered hardware on doors (instead of knobs) and easy to operate windows.
5. Kitchen counter space next to all appliances for placing dishes/ pots.
6. Electric cooktop with level burners for easier transfer of food from stove to counter.
7. Wall support in the bathroom, i.e. grab bars at various locations, not just along the water closet, but also in shower stalls (avoid bath tubs). Provide additional bracing in walls for future grab bars.
8. A higher water closet than the standard toilet.
9. Design of toilet paper holder should allow changing of toilet paper with one hand.
10. Lighting inside shower and closets.
11. Light switches located close to entry to each room, hallways and bathrooms.
12. Easy to read thermostats and appliances.
This list is by no means comprehensive, it is a list of items that I have found to be most helpful when you have seniors/ elderly living in your home. You can even go a step further and design your home to be wheelchair accessible. Keeping the needs of the elderly in mind when building or remodeling our homes can help prevent accidents later on and keep them safe and comfortable. Besides, it so much easier to plan ahead and incorporate these features when we are building the home rather than try to retrofit for them later.