If you’ve been around Singapore long enough, you’re bound to hear the phrase “rapidly aging population” at least once or twice from various media outlets. But what does this mean? To put it simply, a significant chunk of our population (estimated to be about 1 out of 5 Singaporeans) is expected to hit their late sixties at 2030. As we’re more likely to share our living spaces with our elderly loved ones (i.e. our parents), it’s time we start to consider more senior-friendly improvements to our homes for their overall safety and comfort.
1. Switch to sliding doors
Yes, sliding doors are a lot more than meets the eye. In case of medical emergencies such as slip and falls, paramedics are able to get inside quickly and easily with sliding doors than traditional doors. On top of that, sliding doors are also a great way to save space and are much easier to use.
2. Install lever handles, grab bars and contrasting doors
Toss doorknobs out and replace them with their senior-friendly counterpart, lever handles! They are generally a lot easier for seniors to handle and turn. For extra safety precautions, installing grab bars with groove patterns at accident-prone areas such as bathrooms, bedrooms, and living rooms are also a great way to reduce the likelihood of falls. Ministry of National Development (MND) also recommends opting for a door colour that’s of stark contrast to the floor as they are easier to distinguish.
3. Amp up your lighting
Mood lighting is undeniably romantic but a senior-friendly home requires ample light to maximise visibility. Fun fact: seniors require 2-3 times more illumination than their fledgling. To incorporate adequate brightness in the home, you’ll need to ensure your living room is set at a LUX level of 500 for the living room, dining room and kitchen.
4. Clear your entrance
Less is more when it comes to decorating your entryway, particularly when you have a wheelchair user at home. Avoid decor that could possibly be an obstruction to wheelchairs and walking sticks such as rugs, bulky furniture, and large plants. To be more specific, MND recommends a clear manoeuvering space of at least 1.25m by 1.5m.
5. Stick to slip-resistant floors
Marble floors are a huge no-no if you live at home with a senior family member. The slick material may be all the rage aesthetic-wise but it does not bode well for elderly occupants who may slip and fall on the ultra-smooth floor, especially when the surface is wet or polished. To prevent such incidents, it is recommended to stick to hardwood (pricey) or laminate (budget-friendly).
Applying these simple senior-friendly features to the home may go a long way to ensure a safer and more comfortable home for your multi-generation household. Who says the young and old can’t live in harmony? Good news is these renovations are made more affordable thanks to HDB programmes like Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) which help provide subsidy for senior-friendly home improvement work like installing customised ramps, grab bars and non-slip bathroom tiles.