If you're among the many senior citizens who have made the decision to age in place in their current home, you've probably already started thinking about how you can modify your home interior to create a more senior-friendly environment—perhaps you've already added grab bars in your shower and nonslip flooring in the bathroom. But when it comes to renovations for aging in place, outdoor living areas often get overlooked until a mishap occurs. Following are five outdoor design elements for those in the process of creating a senior-friendly outdoor environment for themselves or their loved ones to consider.
Age-Friendly Security Lighting
Age-friendly landscape lighting is a little different from standard security lighting. Although the same focal points still exist, such as bright lighting at the front entrance and motion lights in other areas to deter prowlers and potential home intruders, it's also important that outdoor lighting pay special attention to parts of the property that pose potential slip-and-fall hazards. For instance, ground-level lighting along outdoor walkways and lighting on steps provides good visibility for navigating these spaces safely.
Comfortable Seating Areas
Retirees will also have more time to spend enjoying their outdoor living areas, whether they are sitting with a cup of coffee in the early morning and listening to the birds sing or hosting an outdoor cookout for family and friends. Be sure to plan for plenty of comfortable, weatherproof seating.
Because seniors often develop balance issues, outdoor pathways need to be level and have traction to allow for optimal safety of movement. Surfaces should be firm. It's best to avoid gravel because it is hard to walk on, flagstone because it has edges that can cause people to trip, and bark mulch because it retains water that can cause unevenness. Flat concrete pathways provide the best stability. Additionally, pathways in the yard should be at least three feet wide to accommodate walkers, wheelchairs, and other mobility devices.
Shaded areas are an essential component of senior-friendly outdoor design. Whether it's a standalone gazebo, an awning on the side of the home, or a simple shade umbrella over a patio table, a shaded area provides protection from the hot sun. It also provides a place to relax and enjoy being outdoors when it's drizzling or even raining.
Raised Garden Beds
Even those who are still nearly or fully mobile may have difficulty bending down to tend to gardens in conventional beds. Raised garden beds allow them to easily plant and tend to their favorite flowers, herbs, and vegetables.
Contact a local outdoor-design contractor to learn more.