A common topic at any gathering of baby boomers is often “Should we downsize? When and where would be the best option?". The rapid expansion of support options are enabling people to live independently at home for much longer, and choosing the home that will meet your needs for the long term requires considerable thought and careful planning.
Twelve months ago Mum moved into a newly refurbished unit in a large retirement village. Visitors to Mum’s new home often comment on how lucky she has been to find such a lovely place with lots of natural light, new fixtures and fittings, a small garden courtyard, and, best of all, friendly caring neighbours. However, when Mum returned home after a short stay in hospital, what she valued most was the thoughtful universal design of the unit. From the small magnetic attachment at the front door to keep the fly screen door open as you entered, to the width of the doorframes; the layout of the rooms; and design of the bathroom and toilet fittings - the unit was perfect for living with less mobility.
Universally designed homes look the same as other houses but incorporate layouts, products and environments that are helpful to people of all ages and abilities. The Western Australian Government’s Liveable Homes initiative was developed to increase the number of private and public homes in Western Australia that are built with universal access and provides a free online resource for people wishing to incorporate universal design principles when designing a new home or renovating an existing home.
When our children left home and we started the downsizing journey, we were keen to build an environmentally sustainable home. My husband, a fan of the popular TV series “Grand Designs”, thought he’d take on the challenge of being an owner builder. He spent months researching sustainable building products and designs and attending owner builder workshops. We started the building journey keen to incorporate as many green features as possible, but soon realised that, if our new house was to meet our needs for the long haul, universal design principles were just as important.
Seven years down the track we are happily ensconced in our new home, loving its accessible and open plan design. Like many Australians we plan to live independently at home for as long as possible, the universal design of our new home will ensure we have “room to move” no matter where we are on the mobility continuum.
For more information and free resources to help you navigate Australia’s aged care environment visit Live Well Longer – ageing at home.