Age Friendly House: Ten Essential Renovations to Make Sooner Rather than Later

In the old days, when the existing home would become too challenging for a senior, the options were narrow, and commonly included moving out. Aging in place, in an appropriate age-friendly house, was not a thing, and if the family members were too busy to take proper care of the older relative, a nursing home was the common solution. While, in some instances, moving out proved to be necessary, the truth is that most seniors would rather have stayed in their own home, on familiar ground, in their own privacy. 

Seniors are adults who spent most of their lives in responsibility for raising the family, developing a career, taking care of everything. That self-image is hard to change, but golden years are also the time to decrease stress levels and enjoy the fruits of one’s efforts. Over time, we all have to let go of the ultimately-in-charge image and settle with the idea that the moment for relaxation has come. Slowly, we learn to enjoy it. 

Age-friendly house

My House, My Rules

When you’re a senior, you know how it feels. It’s not unlikely that you might have already lost a spouse or a partner in the process. You lost the feeling of being irreplaceable as a patron. The last thing you want to relinquish is control over your own life, regressing to the phase of a helpless child.

This bears significant importance if you have spent most of your life in the same house—or, at least, a long time. Such a place is crawling with warmth and memories, provides the meaning to existence. There’s also a sense of safety and security that no other place can beat. Moving out is like leaving your life behind, giving it up. From this perspective, it’s easy to understand why seniors should be provided with an alternative. After all, they deserve it. 

What it Means, an Age-Friendly House?

Age-related changes will have halved your young adult strength by the time you reach 80. The velocity of contraction and movement significantly reduces, together with muscle power. In turn, fatigability increases. The declines in motor function appear to accelerate markedly in this age. The central nervous system also suffers degradation, compromising activation of the motor unit during contractions. 

Still, there is a large variability between individuals in many aspects of motor performance. Some healthy individuals can lead an almost fully-independent life until their last days.

Other common age-related issues with a major impact on mobility are cardiovascular diseases, arthritis. Then there is Alzheimer’s disease as a whole set of problems of its own.

Mobility issues greatly affect seniors’ ability to perform daily functional tasks. There are, however, many preparations that you can make in advance to turn your home age-friendly and suitable for comfortable, peaceful aging in place.

luxury house designer
Calm and bright living space

The desire to live safely and undisturbed in our own homes is universal, as is the desire to be a part of the community. Making it happen is not easy, but it is possible. Transition to an age-friendly house requires some essential renovations that can help you live longer and feel independent. Those will enhance the level of physical safety and support you in staying mentally sharp, on top of your game. A good mental stage sustains other functions so the body can remain healthy as well. 

Making an age-friendly house is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach, but some things are universal. I will state the ten crucial changes and explain how those affect the inhabitants.

How to Transition Towards Age-Friendly House

Floor Plan

If possible, the entire living area will share the same floor, eliminating the need to use stairs entirely. You need to be able to move with minimal obstruction on the way. An open plan is the best solution, but some people enjoy small, defined rooms with more coziness and privacy.

Ideally, there shouldn’t be any steps between rooms or zones. Also, each traffic flow should be spacious enough to comfortably accommodate walking assistance, a helping person, or a wheelchair. Flooring is one of the crucial aspects of safety, so it must feature smooth, glare-free, slip-resistant surfaces or carpets. Every finish should be as low-maintenance as possible. 

Sunshine coast interior
Age in place home with comfort

Color/texture contrast is an excellent solution to indicate a change in surface levels. If the stairs are unavoidable, a contrast between vertical and horizontal will increase visibility. Together with excellent lighting and sturdy rails, it will significantly affect the safety and convenience of use. 

A smart-home system will help a lot to keep everything under control without excessive physical efforts. 

Doors and Windows

  • If possible, entrances should grant easy access and egress with no obstacles like steps. In a case when steps can’t be avoided, it’s necessary to have a sturdy rail for support. Doors should be changed to at least 4 inches wider than a typical home to grant undisrupted assisted passability. Ideally, a senior should be able to open all internal doors hands-free. That means either sensors, swivel doors, or ideally no doors at all, where available. Additionally, consider sink handles or levers rather than knobs.
  • Plenty of lower to the floor, easy-open windows, allowing an abundance of natural light, are a better solution than common ones. If there is a need for any shutters, heavy shades, or awnings, try to install the electrical, button-operated systems. 

Hallways

  • Those should be minimally three feet wide, preferably wider. Ideally, there will be space for a bench at the front door, and a surface area to place parcels and heavy bags. No-slip flooring is a must, with the matte finish. Some grab bars along the corridors are not a bad idea, either.
  • Hallways and corridors should be exceptionally well lit, ideally activated by sensors. Between bedroom and bathroom, automatic nighttime illumination would be a valuable asset.
master bathroom
Accessible Bathroom

Bathrooms

Over 30% of al bathroom injuries happen to seniors, of which over 80% are from slips and falls, half of those due to the inadequate features or missing propper support. A minor investment into several improvements can minimize such risk or eliminate it entirely.

  • Installing a curbless, roll-in shower with an adjustable handle is the best idea, but some seniors prefer to sit in a tub. If possible, install both. A reliable, quality fold-down seat in the shower and a lowered bathtub will secure a more convenient use.
  • Easily accessible grab-bars should exist inside and outside shower, as well as around a tub. Also, make all cabinetry easy to reach, with edges in contracting colors, easy to spot. The toilet should be height adjustable. All materials must be selected with convenience in mind, such as antibacterial, with anti-slip properties.
luxury kitchen designer
Age-friendly luxury kitchen design

Kitchen

The kitchen must have enough maneuvring space with easily accessible features. An open-plan kitchen is an excellent solution, both space- and safety-wise. It eliminates the need for doors, and in case you need any kind of assistance, there are no sound or visual barriers. 

  • Glass-front cabinet doors and pull-down or open shelving are convenient, providing easy access to all frequently used items. All appliances should feature accessible doors and easy to read controls. The more voice or sensor control, the better. 
  • There should be at least one working area available with a sitting position; the ideal solution is under-counter seated work areas.
contemporary design
Bedroom with a view

Bedroom

A well-designed bedroom can bring you comfort and calm, much needed to rest for the next day properly. Sometimes bedrooms are the most cluttered rooms in the home. In an age-friendly house, this room should be clutter-free and secured against tripping and falling. On the other hand, all storage must be designed as convenient and accessible. An architect with extensive knowledge of interior psychology, familiar with Feng-Shui’s philosophical approaches, can make the bedroom a true oasis for body, mind, and soul. 

  • The bedroom should have enough open space to allow undisturbed movement of a wheelchair, walking assistance device, or a person. 
  • Drawers and all storage need to be simple and easy to access drawers. A comfortable and accessible bed is an essential feature. Ensure it’s not too high or too low, obstacle-free, allowing for convenient getting in and getting up.
Living room
Bright and open living room

Age-Friendly House Renovation Is Not a Luxury, But a Necessity

Our senior population deserves a radical rethink in the way we design and build our homes. Acting with the future in mind, meeting our needs according to our lifestyle choices is a matter of wisdom. With some exceptions, aging in place is a highly functional concept that works, allowing a person to remain safe and well without the need for constant surveillance. An age-friendly house offers a high-quality life through golden years, a chance to keep everything under control and remain socially active for decades to come. 

Is your multifamily building safe and COVID-19 Proof?

After the epidemic, health officials implemented many rules and regulations in public spaces. But we also have our private life to think about. Is your townhome, condo, apartment building, or multifamily building safe enough?

The units where we should feel snug and secure can become more dangerous than the outside world. For instance, most of the older buildings use outdated carpets and wall coverings. It’s also possible that those haven’t been maintained for a long time. The porous surfaces can absorb the virus from outside and spread it through the unit’s ventilation system. 

To keep your multifamily building safe, you should ask your strata manager or building manager some serious questions. Start by discovering just how safe the flooring or wall covering in your building is? Piping needs to be inspected, too, as well as the ventilation and/or heating/cooling system.

Air quality is essential in keeping multifamily building safe
Air quality is the key

Another necessary inspection is that of ducking for each ventilation/heating/cooling system. If those are not separated, in order to avoid air mix between units, you must take steps for significant improvements ASAP. 

While there is still much uncertainty regarding this virus’s nature, it’s wise to conduct as many immediate preventative steps as possible to reduce the risk of infection.

Ventilation Is Essential in Keeping Your Multifamily Building Safe

Recirculating air has become the default in many buildings. Still, with all the controversy, old-style ventilating with outdoor air becomes vital. It’s the simple but efficient way of diluting airborne contaminants, thus decreasing transmission rates. If necessary, consider replacing or adapting some or all windows so you can simply open them wide to let in more outdoor air.

Humidity matters, too. Some studies suggest that viruses can survive in low-humidity environments more easily. Heating and ventilation systems can help to increase humidity and maintain an optimal range of 40 to 60%.

Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) filters indoor pollution. Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) systems can help reduce the airborne concentration of pathogens if adequately designed and operated. Those must be, however, installed by qualified and experienced engineering professionals – otherwise may turn dangerously counterproductive. 

modern house design
Pool water needs proper maintenance, too

You or your building manager should engage the technicians to identify the ways and directions the air moves through spaces. Such tests should determine both the flow and leakage. In the case of non-separate ducking, there are several solutions, including HVAC upgrades, installing new doors or air curtains, and sealing the gaps. 

Indoor air filtering has a role of its own. Changes to air filtration practices may take more time to implement. However, research suggests that filtration of recirculated air may significantly help in reducing the transmission of airborne infectious diseases. HEPA filters in their full potential can remove 99% of particles measuring 0·3 microns or more. These filters are not an investment with temporary importance, as those also remove vapor, dust, bacteria, and fungi.

Improve Cleaning Protocols to Make Your Multifamily Building Safe

Regular cleaning protocols need upgrading to meet the demands of the current situation. Increased frequency and regular supplies are a crucial step. However, not all surfaces are the same. Replacing outdated carpets and wall coverings will return with a double benefit. For instance, ceramic tiles are not only far less prone to retain the virus and dirt than the carpet—but also very fast and easy to clean as many times as needed. In multi-apartment buildings with high traffic flow, this is one of the smartest adaptations you can make. 

surrey renovation
Easy to maintain and sanitize

Plumbing Matters

There are several protocols and guidelines to minimize potential transmission risk through wastewater plumbing systems. These include but are not limited to: 

  • investigating any unexplained foul odors in bathrooms, kitchens, or wash areas in order to detect and prevent leakage
  • ensuring that all water appliances in bathrooms and kitchens feature a functioning U-bend/U-trap
  • opening a tap on all water appliances twice a day for no less than 5 seconds to prevent the deficit of the water trap seal within a U-bend/U-trap
  • sealing any disconnected, cracked, open, or leaking wastewater pipework from appliances 
  • continuously monitor all system performances

Investing in Keeping Multifamily Building Safe Is Investing in the Future

Some types of renovations will not only make your multifamily building safe but may also bring a high ROI outside of the COVID-19 field of interest. 

The exterior of the building makes more than just the first impression. With maintenance-free vinyl shutters, you can eliminate a part of the risks while also improving the appeal. Alongside this, you could add some textural elements as a “one-and-done” type of investment and kill two flies with one hit.

Is your multifamily building safe enough?

Security is always important. All doors and windows in each unit should lock effectively, as well as the front and back doors to the building. If possible, install new doors or at least new locks to enhance as much of contactless traffic as possible. This improvement can also be a considerable ROI booster for the future.

Unit Layout

Since total square footage can be tight in older building apartments, spending all the time at home requires some adaptation, too. That applies notably if one or more residents are working from home. Sometimes a layout change can make the unit appear significantly larger, so consider a change that can bring a potential ROI. Opening up or knocking out a wall can create an open concept. It’s particularly useful in a smaller space, as you can easily adapt it further by temporary dividers. That way, you can secure more than one separated workspace without sacrificing valuable floor area.

Affordable remodeling doesn’t mean over-improving kitchens and bathrooms. It’s in no meaning necessary to use marble or granite finishes. There are less expensive materials that still deliver improved user experience and enhance safety. Newly updated yet less expensive countertops, cabinets, appliances simplify the sanitizing process while still raising the value of the place. Newer appliances and durable flooring bring it further, and on top of all, such an investment reduces ongoing maintenance costs.

Balconies matter, too

Balconies present a few additional square feet you could use in many creative ways. It may seem challenging at first, but some small interventions can turn into valuable experience in the long term. In case we witness more of hard isolation days, our balconies will become places of social life, so think ahead. If you are short of ideas, hire an architect and watch him doing his magic.

Questions to Ask If You’re Hiring a Contractor During COVID-19 Pandemic

It’s strongly advisable to ask the contractor company all the relevant questions related to the job. Suppose your multifamily building is not professionally managed, or for any reason, you have to be the person responsible for the task. In that case, you need to take steps to ensure that any repair or remodel job will be conducted in line with the proper safety standards. Start with inquiring about the steps they took regarding protection and prevention. You need to be sure that you are in the right hands, above all.

Ask about the precautions the working team will take while working on the site. Do they use masks or plastic barriers, how is the shift organized? What about physical distance, are there any rules for traffic flow? How do they handle sanitisation? Make as many inquiries as possible, and hire only among companies who convinced you that they know what they’re doing.

Is your multifamily building safe?

If you plan to visit their showroom, observe the hygiene and if all the frequently used items are regularly sanitized. That applies to phones, work stations, computers, doorknobs, light switches, and bathroom fixtures. Additionally, office personnel should be devoted to sanitizing themselves regularly before and after interactions. Such a visit can tell you a lot about if the company can be considered reliable enough to hire during Covid-19.

Construction Tasks in Private Homes

The rules for employees that conduct work in private homes are no different than others. The contractor or general supervisor must assess the potential risk of infection for workers in advance and implement measures to minimize such risk as effectively as possible. Keep in mind that the more measures your contractor implements—the safer the worksite and the residents. 

A short summarize of the contractor’s duties defined by the Standardized Protocols for all Canadian construction sites:

  • Prioritize the health and safety of workers and of their surrounding communities
  • Apply recommendations and best practices from federal, provincial, and municipal public health authorities to construction site procedures
  • Establish and maintain a standard COVID-19 Pandemic Response Plan across construction sites
  • Foster open communication among stakeholders and ensure a respectful work environment.
Is your multifamily building safe?
Is your multifamily building safe?

Lessons for Tomorrow

Some say that a proper quarantine is impossible if you live in a public or multifamily building. However, the lessons we learn every day will not only help the current situation but also transfer into a better tomorrow. We have been taking more for granted than we think. This is our time to learn just how much healthy buildings are essential in creating a healthy world. By making them safe and COVID-19-proof, we are creating safer environments for the time to come.

Building Technology and Safety: What COVID-19 Brings on the Table

The Good News

The construction and building technology have both improved and evolved over the years to help us encounter difficulties with building safety we faced over the years. Fire, water damage, collapse, and earthquake issues all led us to develop more advanced building codes for building designers, electrical, mechanical, structural practice as well as materials production. Architects and designers always have to keep learning to interpret the design standards and building technology in line with new rules to be able to create beautiful buildings that last long, even in the time of pandemics. 

Between client expectations, the construction budget, the local bylaw and building code, most designers become as conservative as possible to deliver an ultra safe result which sacrifices the beauty and in times functionality. There are some exceptions, of course.

Architecture and art of building design are facing another obstacle to deal with. How will we design the buildings of tomorrow to deal with transmittable diseases?

Modern Building, building technology
Modern Building

Building Technology and the New Normal

Physical distancing, adjusted schedules, split shifts where possible, and implementing healthcare officials in operating businesses are all part of the new normal. Construction workers belong to no exception. New rules are deployed to maintain the strict limits defined by expert authorities in order to maintain productivity in the safest conditions available.

Engineers and contractors are on the learning curve, earning precious safety experience on a daily basis. Sharing knowledge has become essential, internally, and within industry associations, as well as with jurisdictions across the country. It leads to establishing new, more adequate protocols and educating others on what they needed to do to work safely.

The facemasks are obligatory for workers in some conditions, together with handwashing and hand sanitizing stations at worksites. Work crew transportation is limited, while worksites introduced non-contact temperature screening to identify carriers.  Building technology keeps changing and adapting, too.

Innovation is the key to maintaining business operating as usual (or new norm!). It might seem, in the beginning, that general guidelines have covered every issue. Only after the project starts, it may become apparent just how many details need special attention. Have you been thinking about the possibility of hanging a large window while maintaining the recommended physical distance?

ultra modern home
Building of tomorrow?

What May Change in Near Future

How can commercial and office buildings keep functioning? Is it possible for big offices to disappear and be replaced with small satellite offices? In such a case, something will have to be done with the vast existing square footage of empty office and commercial buildings. Who will pay for their mortgage and recurring maintenance fees? 

Turning offices to residential units won’t make them suitable or justify the initial cost.

Even if they do, what kind of tenants will be renting them? Too many rental units available on the market will eventually lead to a rental unit market crash. That alone is sufficient reason to make the repurposing idea unattractive for owners of office buildings.

building tehnology

Some offices are operating with a reduced number of employees working simultaneously. It has become a necessity to create physical distance and a safe working environment. However, that situation won’t last forever. It’s not in the business’s best economic interest to pay the costly lease for big operating space with fewer employees.

How will the hospitality industry adapt? The pandemic heavily influenced the industry, with the number of guests lowered drastically. Would they continue their operation the same way?

The music industry, sports industry, and entertainment industry, in general, all have their survival depending on the mass public’s presence. We need ways to reformat the structure of existing arenas and theatres, to make them sustainable in line with the new normal.

Are we witnessing another industrial revolution, or is this just a temporary hiccup and everything will go back to normal?

Restaurant designer
Not this future

Single-Family and Multi-Family Homes—What Can We Expect to Improve in These Buildings?

Ensuring adequate ventilation is the best standard practice for improving indoor air quality. Increasing ventilation alone is not enough to protect people from COVID-19. However, in combination with other best practices recommended by the Health Officials, it’s a vital part of a plan to protect yourself and your family.

Naturally, to improve ventilation in your home, you can open the windows or screened doors. You can also install and operate a window air conditioner with outdoor air intake or vent, with the vent open. Running a bathroom fan is another highly recommendable practice. 

renovation company surrey
Bathroom Renovation

Can Building Technology Help Protect Our Loved Ones in Our Living Space?

Most of the new single-family homes are installing Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) which filters indoor pollution. If you are buying a house or have a house that doesn’t have one, I recommend installing one ASAP. If you live in a rental unit make sure the units are not interconnected through internal air ducts which can cause the air from one unit to spread to another one!

Most of the multi-family homes use separate ducking for each unit in order to avoid air mix between units. Check that with your building maintenance manager to make sure. In case your building has a different design, you should ask them to have the significant improvements done as some lives are depending on it.

Some building managers and others are trying to take steps to prevent contamination between rooms by avoiding the possibility of airborne transmission. Technicians should identify the ways and directions the air moves through spaces before installing new devices or upgrading air ventilation systems. Such tests should determine both the flow and leakage.

Several options are available. Some involve HVAC upgrades, and others are focusing on more straightforward solutions to address any problems detected. These solutions might include installing new doors or air curtains, as well as generating overpressure over suspended ceilings, and sealing any gaps.

house designer surrey, building technology
House designer surrey

HVAC Systems

Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) systems are a double-edged sword. Adequately designed and operated, these systems may help in reducing the airborne concentration of pathogens and microorganisms, lowering the risk of transmission through the air. 

(HVAC) systems should not be modified without prior assessment. For maximum safety, such work should be conducted by an appropriately qualified and experienced engineering professional. Any system modifications done by an inexperienced person who does not understand the system or how it works, can increase risks. A wrong setting will have an impact on all other building systems, which could end up in more harm than good. The results would have adverse effects on health and safety, air quality, building air pressure/balance, performance/operation of the HVAC equipment, etc.

Recommendable modifications that require professional assistance to avoid the risk of negatively affecting the performance of the HVAC and other building systems include:

  • replacing existing air filters with higher efficiency air filters;
  • enclosing or separating rooms with temporary or permanent means
  • changing fan speeds, along with adding supply/exhaust fans
  • installing additional integrated filtration units
  • blocking diffusers, or altering existing airflows
  • altering the standard programming of system controls

All alterations to HVAC or other building systems should only be done in consultation with an appropriately qualified and experienced engineering professional.

Maple ridge contemporary home
Healthy home

Protect Yourself Beyond Physical

The vaccine will soon become available and calm the storm down. However, we can’t predict when the next episode of these epidemics will hit us. This might be a new NORM!!!

We are living in an era that the world powers are fighting over world domination. We, as consumers, are victims of their games. So, live like everything will be OK forever, but prepare as if you expect more of these plays.

The face mask is one of a temporary bandaid on the problem and is not enough to do the job.

You are probably aware that you don’t have to wear a face mask in your house or unit if you don’t have a visitor. Even more, wearing a face mask all day long is bad for your health as well. But we are social beings and we can’t jail ourselves inside all the time. We need to get some fresh air or meet a friend or go shopping, right?

Most communities and buildings have already implemented a safety protocol, which is good to follow.

Don’t panic! follow a simple protocol, and stay calm. The more you panic, the more you affect your immune system. Secure the best ventilation you can afford while at home. Wear a mask when you are in public closed areas, and wash your hands often. Stay away from unhealthy food.

Chinese medicine puts its trust into our own immune system to fight any disease. It would help if you did the same. Keep calm. No need to follow the bad news, which does nothing but make you anxious.

Building technology, stay happy

In Short

Remember, life is a journey, and we should take the ride with joy. These times will go by, and we will laugh at them in the near future. All we need to do is to prepare our community and adapt buildings for a better, safer and more organized future.

Keep smiling and let everyone see your smile even through your mask!!!