Aging in Place: Another Buzz Phrase in Design?

Aging in place, just another buzz phrase in the world of design?  Like other design phrases ‘green design’ ‘transitional’ it has caught on, and caught the attention of many homeowners.  Unlike green design, aging in place does not come with a choice.  We are all aging and whether we do it in our current residence, or move to another, particular features can make that journey easier.  The central principles surrounding aging in place find their footing in very practical, safe, easy to use and to maintain features.  In fact when I speak with my clients about aging in place the features are more often stylish, flexible and comfortable.   When you analyze the universal truths of aging, it is easy for a designer to plan for them.

As we age the lens of our eyes becomes thicker and yellowing.  Addressing the lighting needs for now and the future means multiple layers of lighting with a lot of flexibility.  This means having ambient and task lighting controlled separately by dimmers.  The quality of light is also important; make sure you have good color rendering and enough wattage.  Paint colors and reflective surfaces such as countertops can also play a vital role.  Glare from vertical and horizontal surfaces can make a space uncomfortable and create unnecessary adjustment of artificial light.  Controlling glare from natural light at windows with the proper coverings, and the correct artificial light sources can minimize how hard we have to work at keeping lighting levels comfortable throughout the day and night.  Technology available to use today can follow the sun cycles adjusting your window shades and lights accordingly.  

Another unfortunate fact of aging is tight joints, most noticeably found in our hands.  This can make it difficult to use common household fixtures like faucet handles, door knobs, and lamp switches.  One thing I often do for my clients is place the reading lights beside their bed on a toggle light switch.  No matter your age it is easier to tap a switch rather than turn a tiny knob under a lamp shade.  The increased awareness of how we age and desire of homeowners to stay home longer has provided us with wonderful products to make this easier.  Products such as lever door handles and motion censored faucets are just a few of these items.  These small changes can make a big impact on your quality of life.  

If you are looking for more ideas on how to proactively approach aging in place email me at

Heather Van Eyk  NW Design House, LLC