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Elder Friendly Home Design

Last Updated on February 6, 2012

Are you thinking about redesigning your home to make room for a parent or grandparent who is moving in? Here’s how to design a safer and less stressful multigenerational home.


With the rising cost of assisted living facilities, many senior citizens are choosing to stay in their homes longer. The trend to “age in place” is growing in popularity along with the trend for elderly parents or grandparents to move in with their children and grandchildren.

When two generations share a home they can usually live cheaper collectively. Whether it’s contributing rent or serving as cost-free daycare, move-in parents can help ease the family’s cost of living while avoiding the isolation and higher expenses of living alone.

The three major factors to consider when remodeling a senior addition to the family are safety, comfort, and costs. By sitting down with an experienced home remodeler you can find creative and affordable solutions.

Design for safety. As we grow older, we tend to lose flexibility and balance. Senior citizens are more likely to have fall related accidents and suffer significant injury from falls. Therefore, we want to look for ways to reduce the likelihood and severity accidents.

Talk to your builder about installing slip resistant flooring. Remove high-gloss flooring tiles and cover polished floors with carpeting, where possible. While throw rugs are nice decorative touch, they can cause slips and falls. Wall-to-wall carpeting with thick padding will reduce the risk and impact of falling.

Staircases are a particularly dangerous place for senior citizens. Consolidate living space to a single level to make it safer and less strenuous. When you can’t get away with single-level living, make sure stairwells are well lit and free from any tripping hazards. Securely anchor handrails in hallways. Consider installing a stair lift.

Remodel bathrooms for safety, as well as comfort. Replace bathtubs with walk-in stall showers. Have professionally installed safety grips installed by toilets and inside the shower. Your remodeler should be able to recommend safety grips that are both effective and aesthetically pleasing.

Design for Comfort. Make sure your elderly loved one has a comfortable living environment, and not just a safe one. Many families are choosing to remodel their homes with two separate living areas. A home designed with two separate living areas, but not as a legal two-family rental is sometimes referred to as a “secondary suite” or a “mother-in-law house.” In the Northeast, this type of layout called a mother-daughter house.

Consult with your local building code so that you don’t inadvertently modify your house into a two family home without the proper permits. Two separate entrances allow the senior to have more privacy and independence without feeling as if they are living on top of the family.

It’s important to redesign your home with reselling it in mind. Poorly modified homes often require lots of renovation. Follow proper interior designing principles when adding safety features or your senior living area might end up looking like a hospital ward.

Separate thermostats will keep everybody happy. Seniors often feel the need for more heat in the winter and less air-conditioning in the summer than younger people do.

With a separate entrance and living space, seniors can have more control over the look and feel of their homes. The buffer between living spaces will let you enjoy your sleek and modern design without clashing with that tacky recliner Grandpa doesn’t want to give up.

Countertops should be higher than normal to reduce stooping and bending while shelves should be lower to avoid overreaching.

Make sure you have good lighting. Incandescent light fixtures are better than fluorescent bulbs because they produce less glare. Light switches should be illuminated so they can be found in the dark. Plug nightlights in hallways or mount motion sensitive light switches.

For additional safety and privacy, install an intercom. An intercom will allow for easy communication without intruding into each others living areas. Additionally, get a medical alarm or senior alert system so that an elderly relative can summon help when no one else is home.

Home Design Costs. Home remodeling is not cheap, but there are several ways to finance. A reverse mortgage can help pay for renovations, but only if the senior continues to live in the mortgage home as a primary residence. Before taking out a reverse mortgage it’s important to consult with a qualified, unbiased financial and legal adviser and not just a mortgage salesperson.

Thanks to for these tips on safer living spaces for senior citizens.

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