Aging in Place

May 24, 2023

Vancouver Island has become one of the most desired areas for retirement; with our lush forests and ocean views who can blame them?  Many people are deciding to build or renovate homes so that they can age in place and there are many factors to consider. One of the hardest things to do is to plan for the unexpected but making these design choices now will allow you the independence and quality of life that you are looking for, for many years to come.  As we all know, moving is an unpleasant, disruptive, and costly endeavor, so aging in place offers great value.  Just one of the many benefits is remaining close to neighbours and amenities that you have come to value over your time in your home.

Floor Plan

When designing a home the first thing to consider is the floorplan. Stairs might not be an issue right now however once you are older they can become tricky. Planning to have your master bedroom on the main floor with a 3-piece bathroom can save you from an unnecessary fall. This is the same with the entrance; choose a floorplan without stairs to the front door and your older self will thank you. Another thing to think about is an open unobstructed floorplan. If you or a family member needs a wheelchair having at least 3 feet for circulation and doorways can allow you to come and go effortlessly.


None of us wants to picture ourselves as being weaker or in some ways infirm as we age, but we have to admit it is a possibility.  For this reason, circulation in a bathroom is also very important.  With a little forethought, a larger bathroom can be designed now to allow you the room you may need in the future.  Other aging-friendly additions to your bathroom are putting in a shower with no threshold, a hand held shower head, slip resistant tile and a bench. This stops future tripping hazards and allows you to bathe without assistance. Another alternative that won’t notice now but will be grateful for later is putting in a grab bar instead of a standard towel bar. There are many grab bars that look like regular towel bars but can withstand a lot of weight if you need support.


There are also a lot of kitchen safety changes that can save your body as well. When you become older your range of motion becomes smaller and putting things at a more accessible height will protect your back. Drawers instead of doors on your lower cabinets stop you from having to crouch to see into a cabinet. Putting your microwave at counter height and buying appliances with front mounted controls eliminates unnecessary reaching. For your hardware try to switch to pulls and levers, as knobs are harder on our hands as we age. For your kitchen you may also want to consider counter height seating so that you can sit and prepare your meals and getting rounded edges on countertops in case there is an accident.


There are electrical changes that can save you from potential fall as well. Putting in 2-3 way switches can help you move around in the dark and see potential obstacles. You might also want to place your outlets 18-24” off the ground to reduce how far you need to bend and put in light switches with a rocker panel instead of the toggle option.

Colours & Finishes

When thinking about finishes there is a lot to consider. Picking softer flooring like carpet, cork or vinyl plank can save your joints or your body after a fall. The one thing to consider when getting carpet is to pick one with a shorter pile height so that if a wheelchair or walker is necessary it can be used easily. You also want to keep flooring smooth and level when you can. If there needs to be a change in height try to draw attention to it with a different colour or pattern.  If your depth perception eventually slips, contrast when changing finishes and heights may prevent avoidable accidents. This goes with picking wall finishes as well. Picking a wall paint or tile that gives a contrast to the floor helps distinguish where the wall and floor meet. You also don’t want to pick something with a high sheen. Sheen can add a glare and can distort colours, try to use a matte or flat finish for your tile and paint.


There are many other factors to contemplate when planning your home but keeping this list in mind can help you stay in your home for as long as possible. Planning for life’s inevitable changes can give you peace of mind for the future even though not everyone ends up needing all of these precautions. Independence in the future goes hand in hand with accessibility and taking these measures now will ultimately save you money and increase your convenience and enjoyment of your home.

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