As an interior designer I often need to consider the ergonomics of clients homes with regard to their individual requirements and the most singular truth is that you cannot fully future proof your home for all possible scenarios. Every one ‘lives their home’ differently and importantly, how you live it today will not likely be the way you live it tomorrow. This is something you have already considered with regard to your own health. Improvements in your own physical capabilities may be just around the corner
Conversely, we are all getting older and with age comes it’s own individual challenges. While you currently might require adjustments to your home to accommodate a lower position in a chair, what happens if your partner develops an arthritic knee and bending becomes difficult? Accomodating your current needs might significantly disadvantage the person who provides you with the greatest support down the track.
Sometimes a moderate approach gives you the most flexibility. Only you can determine the best design solution for you.
The following are some areas I usually discuss with my ‘mature-er’ clientsDoor Openings
- In Australia the recommended width for a door opening in a home designed for someone with mobility issues is 900mm. 970mm width doors are std here and most commonly used for this scenario.Handles and Switches
- It might be worth considering lowering door handles, light switches and other electrical controls. Again the recommendation here is 900 – 1100mm above floor level for handles and 1200 for switches. Consider airconditioning controllers, alarm keypads and home automation controllers in this mix. They are all installed by different trades so make sure heights are noted on plans.Home Automation
– It’s a scary term. I liken it to untangling coathangers and the costs can get out of control if you are not clear about what you want. The good news is things are getting much simpler. I would consider looking at a system like Clipsal CBus (I think available in Canada) Once a new home is wired on this system you can add to and change things around how you need. It can provide anything from the simplicity of easy to use push button light switches with LED backlit labels if your vision is poor to being able to control almost anything electrical in your home from an iPad or Iphone depending on your dexterity. Automated Window Treatments
– In Australia you can automate a wall of window treatments from as little at $400 - $500 dollars. Much better than struggling with chains and cords and can link into the cbus system also.Showers
– A walk in shower without any glass screens is a great idea for anyone and you need to have enough room to manoeuvre but be careful not to make the shower ‘enclosure’ too big. The bigger the area the quicker the heat will dissipate from near your body. Showering in a breeze is great if you’re on a tropical island but not so good if it’s the middle of winter. Generally, 1100mm by 1500mm would be a good place to start. A shower design behind a floating wall will give you better accessibility rather than a dead end. A shower rail system with a handheld rose is a great idea but as you are sharing the shower with someone who will shower standing up it would be worth considering two (side by side) shower systems. One can be left at a tall setting and the other lower to save you fiddling with it every day ... if you can reach the controls.Toilets
– A higher toilet pan will make getting on and off much easier generally. These days’ higher pans are available in modern looking suites.Bathroom fittings
– All fittings, towel rails, toilet roll holders and even basins may be used to support your weight from time to time so ensure that they are at least chrome on brass with a two pin fitting and that vanity basins have additional support built under them. Semi recessed basins will allow greater access underneath for a chair.Cabinetry
– Generally drawers are more ergonomic than cupboards as you don’t have to take the weight of what you are retrieving while extending forward into a cupboard. There are lots of runner systems available. My favourite is Blum. Their Tandem Box runners are weight rated so a big drawer of pots and pans (120kg rated) can be opened with your little finger and a soft close function is standard. At a higher cost, but worth a look is the Blum Servo Drive system. No handles, just touch the drawer face and a motor at the back of the unit does the rest of the work for you.
Sorry for long post... I shall stop now.
I hope something in here is of value. Feel free to PM me if you would like me email you any links or anything else. I have plenty to say about tiles, appliances, flooring etc etc