Did you know? Just over 4 million people in Australia – around 16 per cent of our population – are over 65. (Source: aihw.gov.au). This figure is set to rise, with the ABS predicting that by 2051, nearly a quarter of us will be over 65, and five per cent will be 85 or older.
Our ageing population has come about because – like most developed countries – fewer children are being born, and people are living longer due to dietary, medical, economic and lifestyle factors.
Our wealthy society and other demographic factors (such as less incidence of generations of family members living together) means that many older people are continuing to live in their own homes.
What does this mean for the design for our homes, the way they are used and how new homes should be built?
Downsizing is becoming a popular lifestyle change for older Australians who no longer need a large family home.
Many Aussies approaching (or well into) retirement will choose to move to an assisted living facility, retirement village or nursing home. Others will stay in their own homes and modify them for their changing needs.
Some will move in with family members or into a granny flat, or will move to a smaller home which requires less maintenance and is mobility-friendly.
If you are building or renovating a home, there are a number of things to take these things into consideration, either for your own needs, those of ageing parents or relative, or as a way of making your home attractive to an older buyer.
Make Your Home Wheelchair-Friendly
A well-designed home or thoughtful renovation can result in a home that suits occupants with a range of mobility.
Keep the following factors in mind when thinking about a wheelchair-accessible home:
Entrances and Pathways – build a ramp to the front door, removing steps (or providing an alternative entrance), and a level landing area beside the front door (and level flooring in the entryway) which is wide enough for the wheelchair to turn. Entry doors may need to be widened.
Doorknobs and Handles
Levers are easier to operate than handles (for both kids and the elderly).
Poor lighting can be a risk for trips and falls- particularly in bathrooms, stairways, rooms with tiled areas, and workspaces such as kitchens and garages. If installing or upgrading additional lighting, make sure the switches are high enough to prevent unnecessary stooping or bending.
Raise power plugs to tabletop height to minimise bending and install additional plug points to avoid having to use extension cords.
Falls are Australia’s largest contributor to hospitalised injuries and a leading cause of injury deaths. In 2018-19, 43% of hospitalised injuries and 39% of injury deaths were due to falls. (Source: www.aihw.gov.au)
Many slips, trips and falls happen on slippery surfaces, with bathrooms being one of the ‘danger zones’.Make your bathroom as safe as possible by considering the following:
- Remove sharp corners and edges from fixtures and fittings
- Consider access – make the doorway, shower and bath easy to get into, and remove any steps. Consider walk-in shower, handrails (for shower, toilet and bath), a shower seat and hand-held shower head
- Consider emergency access when installing doors and windows
- Convert taps to lever mixers with smooth edges
Make shelves and drawers accessible by lowering or raising as necessary – particularly important for someone in a wheelchair.
Make floors as safe as possible by avoiding glossy or polished floor tiles or choosing a material that will reduce the risk of slips and falls and won’t interfere with depth perception. Materials such as cork, rubber and linoleum are kinder to joints and post less of a trip hazard than deep-pile carpets.
Keeping the floor smooth and level across your home is also a good idea.
In The Kitchen
A kitchen designed with an area where you can sit to prepare meals will be easier on joints and backs. Kitchens with floating islands may work well in this respect, as they can be moved to accommodate a wheelchair or walker.
Easy-glide drawers under the countertop are a better option than wall cabinets, both for safety and accessibility.
Implementing some or all of these design features into your home or into the home of a loved one may have a big impact on their quality of life, and on their ability to stay in their home as long as possible before making the transition to aged care.
Whether you’re undertaking a large-scale extension or doing a smaller project to add value to your home, it’s a good idea to organise a renovation inspection. An inspection can be undertaken either before the project commences, at crucial points throughout the project (for larger-scale jobs) or when the project has been finished.
The following elements need to be inspected before you commence:
- Site drainage
- Stumps and floor levels
- Rooves and gutters
- Internal walls, load-bearing or otherwise
- Plumbing and electrical
- The likelihood of asbestos or termites
An inspection at this stage can identify areas that need initial attention (or any red flags). Don’t run the risk of a renovation project that doesn’t meet building codes or is potentially unsafe, when you have already invested a lot of time and money.
If your renovation is on a smaller scale, you may want to consider booking a pre-project condition report and then a final completion inspection, to make sure the work has been completed to the correct guidelines and standards.
If you are selling your home within six years and six months of completing your renovation, you must provide an owner builder defect report conducted by a registered builder, for work regardless of value – this includes extensions.
If the value of your work exceeds $16,000, you will also need to take out domestic building insurance. This insurance is for the protection of the person who buys your property and must be provided before you take a deposit or any other money for the sale of the property.
The Home Inspection Hub can arrange inspections for all stages of your renovation:
- Contract review
- Pre-condition reports
- Staged inspections throughout the build
- Owner builder defect reports
Our inspectors are fully qualified and insured.
Call us today for a free quote or sample report.
1300 071 283 or email firstname.lastname@example.org