How architects are helping people continue to live at home as they age

In virtually every country, the average age of the population is increasing. Better healthcare means people are living longer. This, combined with the fact that the number of children each person has is also falling, has created what many statisticians refer to as the “demographic timebomb”. More people are at the point in their adult lives where they need a little support than there are younger people willing and able to provide the necessary assistance.

For the whole world, this issue is an important challenge. Fortunately, with the help of the right technology and ways of living, it is one that can be met. As you will, see architects across the world are rising to this challenge and playing a role in keeping everyone living safely and happily. Below, we take a look at how architects are helping people to live at home, as they age.

Home adaptations

First, on the list are home adaptations. These come in many forms, and implementing some of them requires the help of an architect, but, others do not. For example, installing stair lifts, walk-in baths and lowering worktops for wheelchair users are all internal adaptations – things people typically do not need planning permission or the help of an architect to be able to do.

Installing floor-to-floor lifts in residential buildings

Installing a lift is something an architect may need to assist with. Often, there is not sufficient space within a residential building for an internal lift to be installed.

In that situation, it is sometimes possible to add a lift shaft to the exterior of a home. This is not a cheap option, but it is one that people are increasingly considering. The fact that care homes are expensive means that it does not take that long for the cost of lift installation to be more than covered. Plus, of course, people are willing to pay quite a bit to be able to stay in their own home.

As a result, demand for residential lifts is growing and architects are getting involved in their installation. They are helping homeowners to work out where an external shaft could be built and how to connect it to the property.

The fact that on each floor an opening needs to be cut to allow people to enter and leave the lift, means this is potentially quite complex. This is because the structural integrity of that wall needs to be maintained. Despite the hurdles, architects are getting approached by more people seeking to make this kind of home adaptation.

Help with planning and building ramps

Building a ramp is a far more complex task than many people realise. It takes careful planning to get it right. If it is too short, it will end up being too steep to use safely, and there are health and safety regulations that need to be taken into account. Architects have a good working understanding of everything involved, and can identify the best option for each property and come up with a design that works and fits in with all of the relevant regulations.

Building ground floor extensions

More common are clients who want to extend their home on the ground floor, so that they can move to living on one level. In the UK and many other parts of the world, there are not enough bungalows available for people who can no longer climb stairs to buy, so extending their existing home is the only viable option.

In most cases, an extension and layout rework is sufficient to make it possible for a person to continue to live where they want for several more years. Typically, the plans include a new bathroom and bedroom.

Often, homeowners take the opportunity to make other adaptations. For example, widening their doors, building a lobby that is big enough to park up and charge a mobility scooter, and changing room sizing to better accommodate wheelchair use.

In many cases, they are planning ahead and making these changes before they are physically necessary. Wisely, plenty of people are actively preparing for a time when they will be less able to move around freely.

Adding extra buildings to a property

In some cases, they are also converting their garages, lofts and having extra buildings erected in their gardens. A lot of elderly people are incorporating accommodation for a caregiver, or sometimes two, into their homes.

Loft extensions and garden rooms for live-in supporters

In some cases, younger relatives are moving into the loft, annex, converted garage or self-contained garden house. For many families, this arrangement is a win-win situation. The younger members of the family get to live independently of their parents in affordable accommodation, while the older homeowner has someone they know and trust close at hand to assist them with daily tasks.

Later, should a higher level of personal care be needed, arrangements can be changed and professional carers can be hired and live in that accommodation. Au pairs for the elderly and old-fashioned housekeepers are growing in popularity, but both require a reasonable standard of accommodation.

Outside adaptations to make life easier

When you are young, getting out of the car on a cold and wet day is not a problem. It takes moments, and is something you barely think about this simple task.

When you are older, it’s a different story. Getting out of the car can take a long time and the walk up the drive is a nightmare, because you are worried about slipping. Plus, when you get cold and wet, your hands and feet are going to be freezing all night long and the chances are you could get a nasty cold. With this sort of thing in mind, a lot of people realise that building a large garage is a good idea.

Provided it is large enough, you can open the doors wide to get in and out. Plus, maybe transfer into a wheelchair and there is no chance of getting cold and wet while doing it.

The future for elderly living

Globally, the number of people aged 65 or over is set to increase by 230 million by 2030, so we can expect to see more demand from this sector of the population for housing they can continue to live in comfortably.

Without a doubt, this fact is changing the way architects are approaching the design of new properties too.

Posted by Mark
March 15, 2019

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