Senior-friendly designs help keep older people at home longer

With a senior population burgeoning across the United States and Canada, not to mention Europe and even China, more and more businesses are being created to specifically cater to this growing – and wealthy – demographic cohort.

As seniors continue to age, relocation and downsizing becomes an important conversation to have. Many opt to make the move into an active living or independent living retirement community, others choose to move in with loved ones, while others opt to stay living by themselves or with a significant other.

As a result of this significant shift, millions of homes across the United States and Canada need to be retrofitted in order to be accessible for their aging residents, and the trends in this area are nothing short of extraordinary.

There are small, simple changes many companies offer, which include making accessible living spaces by making them wheelchair-accessible, open concept, and without significant barriers. For example, in kitchens, hollowing out the area underneath the sink allows wheelchair users to roll underneath and wash the dishes, which could otherwise prove to be difficult for them. In addition, lower countertops – or even adjustable countertops – can allow multiple people in the same household to find the same level of functionality in the same kitchen.

Kitchen appliances can be dangerous for some seniors

Additionally, different technologies are being created to help address the cognitive impairment common among seniors (such as Alzheimer’s Disease). These technologies can include sensors which identify when someone is no longer in the kitchen for an extended period of time, upon which the appliances automatically shut down, or it could include an alarm system which tracks movement of a wandering resident or someone who is forgetful.

One company based in Short Hills, New Jersey, just outside of New York City, specifically designs residential lighting systems exclusively aimed at older people.

Josh Scharf, president of Archetype Ltd., told that the challenge in designing senior-friendly products is that few consumers consciously want to buy them!

“There are very few stylish products in the market designed specifically for Boomers and older adults. Most screamed 'geriatric' and who the heck wants that in their home, unless absolutely necessary,” Scharf said.

Archetype Ltd. designs wireless floor lighting which, while available to anyone, has found a niche in the older population because it offers a simple way for seniors to have better vision and mobility while at home, during nighttime hours, Scharf said. And regardless of the aging population, there will always be a need for such products.

“Regardless of age, everyone is at danger of falling down ill-lit stairs,” Scharf said.