8 Useful Products for Aging-in-Place

Brilliant’s smart light switch makes it easy to age in place in your new home by connecting all your smart products in one control hub that’s simple to install.

Incorporating new tech into your new home means convenience and safety. Brilliant’s smart home hub, for instance, can connect your home’s smart tech into one easy-to-use control panel. That’s something anyone who wants to age in place can appreciate.

Innovations in technology and home products can seem overwhelming, particularly for older people who may not embrace change as easily as those who eagerly await each new Apple product.

Yet these innovations can be design-forward additions to newly built homes for every generation, while supporting comfortable and safe aging-in-place.

“Every new home should include elements of universal design, such as wider halls and doorways and no-step showers,” says Marty Bell, executive director of the Aging-in-Place Council. “Not only are these attractive, they also expand the market for (those) who may be interested in buying your home when you’re ready to sell someday.”

Among the recent design trends and products that are either intentionally meant for aging in place or add function and comfort for older homeowners are the following products:

1. Zero-threshold Showers

“Designers and developers are finally getting how beautiful these showers can be and how much sense it makes, especially now that people want these giant showers,” says Mary Jo Peterson, president of MJP Design in Brookfield, Conn., and an expert in universal design for kitchens and bathrooms. “Showers without a step or a threshold aren’t that difficult to design, you just have to keep the water away from the opening.”

Zero-threshold showers can make a small bathroom look larger, too, since most designers extend the same tile flooring throughout the bathroom and shower, she says.

2. Voice-activated Controls

“Technology that you can speak to, like Amazon Echo and Google Home, is a huge disrupter, on the scale of the introduction of the first smart phone,” says Laurie Orlov, principal analyst for Aging-in-Place Technology Watch. “It’s much easier for older people to speak to something rather than pinch or swipe something.”

The systems are simple to use and require just Wi-Fi and a Wi-Fi password.

“Even people who haven’t used technology before can set them up with help over the phone or the Internet,” says Orlov. “It’s a great safety tool to be able to turn your lights on before you get out of bed just by asking Alexa to do it for you.”

Among the recent design trends are tech and smart home products that are either intentionally meant for aging in place or add function and comfort for older homeowners.3. Home Automation Tools

Systems like the Ring doorbell system that lets you see who’s at the door (without answering your door) are an important safety tool for older people who live alone, says Bell. Automation that links security with lighting and other controls can benefit all ages.

Three systems meant to simplify smart home management were on display at the 2018 International Builders Show, including products from Axius, Brilliant and TiO. Brilliant and TiO offer voice and touch controls to make it easier for everyone to use them; Axius can also be controlled remotely and has IT support and monitoring to give homeowners confidence that the systems are working.

4. Safety Accessories for the Bathroom

Most people don’t want to look at traditional grab bars, but the reality is that anyone who starts to slip in the tub or shower will grab at whatever is available, says Peterson.

“Now builders are designing items like a soap holder with a circle that becomes a grab bar yet looks like its meant as a design feature,” says Peterson. “I’m starting to see towel bars that incorporate a grab bar and are designed to stay in place, too.”

5. Kitchen Cabinet Accessories

Items designed to make kitchens more organized and convenient can be a boon to older adults, says Peterson. “I can use a hip bump to open and close my garbage can, which means I don’t need to use my hands or feet,” she says. “Shelves that can be moved down with a handle mean that no one has to climb up high to reach things.”

Base cabinets that are configured to hold everyday items like dishes and glassware are great for all ages, says Peterson, since it’s easier for young kids to reach things to set the table and for older people, too.

6. Smart Lighting

LED lighting has made a significant difference for people who are aging-in-place and everyone else, too: they don’t need to be changed for years, which means no one needs to risk every couple of month- climbing to reach ceiling fixtures. “Smart light bulbs can be installed and connected to the Internet so you can use your voice to turn on specific lights,” says Orlov. “You can also set lights on timers.”

Motion sensitive nightlights can be purchased inexpensively and added to a hallway or bathroom. Orlov recommends motion sensitive outdoor lighting, too, especially near steps to prevent falls.

“LED lighting is so small and unobtrusive that it’s easy to install in the toe-kick in a bathroom where it’s aesthetically pleasing, but also safe,” says Peterson.

LED lights can also be installed in showers, where additional light can make falls less likely.

7. Toilet Technology

“All kinds of accessories are being added to toilets, but one thing that most people think of as a big luxury can be critically important later for personal hygiene,” says Peterson. “You can now buy toilets with built-in, automatic bidets. Toilets which have remote or touchless flushing is also great for personal hygiene.”

Peterson says “comfort-height” toilets are meant to be easier for everyone to use, but she says wall-mounted toilets that can be installed at a customized height are even better for aging-in-place because of that customization.

“Wall-mounted toilets are easier to clean and take up less room, so they’re great for a smaller bathroom, too,” says Peterson

8. New Appliance Styles

A popular trend, according to the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s 2018 Kitchen & Bath Design Trends Report, are separate columns of refrigerators and other appliances instead of towers. “We’re seeing more mid-height ovens, microwave drawers and freezer drawers, which are easier to reach without bending,” says Peterson. “And now manufacturers are starting to make appliances in the same dimensions so they can be lined up horizontally instead of vertically.”

Homes with new technology and new products can match the aesthetic tastes of buyers, as well as provide comfort and safety for all ages.
Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades. You can find her on Google+.

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