Few things matter more to an aging relative than maintaining his or her lifestyle, safety and independence — and when it comes to home decor, the right interior design decisions will go a long way toward supporting all three.
Davis Remignanti, lead design consultant at Furniture.com, offers these practical home decorating ideas to help make any living space more senior-friendly and help seniors to accommodate their changing needs and abilities. Pass these tips along to your clients.
- Clear the Path.
Clear away items — small home accessories, plants, magazine racks — that clutter pathways or objects that require people to walk around to avoid. Accommodate wheelchairs or walkers by allowing at least 36 inches between objects. Plan room designs with Furniture.com’s free, interactive Room Planner at www.furniture.com/roomplanner.
- Create a Sanctuary.
For a senior who shares a home with family members, his or her only personal space is often the bedroom. In it, create a “sanctuary” that calms, centers and energizes by allowing space for favorite pastimes, enjoying personal media, or otherwise catching some quiet time. Clients should select a bed that offers easy access (onto and off) along with appropriate support and comfort.
- Color Their World.
Turn to color to open-up and whites and light neutral colors, along with blues, greens and violets
(in light versions) to help rooms appear larger. To assist with visibility, consider home furnishings in hues that contrast against their backgrounds.
- Light it Up.
Ease the strain on older eyes with plenty of lighting options. Give special attention to areas used for detailed work, like reading and hobbies. Use wall switches at room entry points to control lighting.
- Provide Easy Storage.
Provide adequate, easily accessible storage that doesn’t require reaching, bending or straining. Choose dressers and wardrobes with large or D-loop handles that don’t require fine finger dexterity. Many children’s dressers feature easy-rolling guides and built-in safety stops.
- Work the Kitchen.
Create a seated work area for food preparation tasks. A small table and chair in a comfortable location, with nearby access to utensils, is a good solution.
- Support at Dinner.
Consider investing in dining chairs that provide good back support and have strong, sturdy arms. Seat cushioning adds comfort, but should be securely fitted to the chair.
- Blend and Compromise.
For seniors who are going to live with relatives, compromise when faced with the question of placing a well-loved but less-than-decor-complementary piece in the living room. If it’s a definite “no,” get creative. Suggest reserving a corner for that piece of furniture in the senior’s bedroom.
“Remember that the goal in redesigning a living space for senior use is to enable that senior to maintain his or her freedom within a safe, comfortable and friendly living environment,” advises Remignanti. “Communication is crucial. Share opinions and ideas — and create the solution together.”