Designing Residences for Aging in Comfort: Crafting Safe and Accessible Living Spaces

Think Interior
7 min readDec 12, 2023

As our occupant’s age, the “aging in place” concept has gained prominence. This approach allows individuals to endure in their homes as they cultivate older rather than moving into assisted living facilities. Designing residences for aging in comfort is an essential endeavor that prioritizes creating safe, accessible, and welcoming living spaces.

You can learn about “Designing Residences for Aging in Comfort: Crafting Safe and Accessible Living Spaces” through an interior design academy and program that offers universal design and aging-in-place design courses.

In this article, we’ll explore the principles and concepts behind aging-in-place design, the significance of universal design, home layout, accessibility features, and much more to enable individuals to enjoy their homes well into their golden years.

Understanding Aging in Place

Aging in place is not just about growing old in the comfort of your home; it’s about ensuring your house evolves to meet your changing needs. Understanding the concept is crucial. It involves acknowledging the aging process and recognizing the specific challenges and needs that arise as individuals grow older. This knowledge forms the foundation for creating living spaces that support independence, safety, and quality of life.

Safe and Accessible Design Principles

Creating safe and accessible living spaces for aging individuals involves incorporating specific design principles to enhance mobility and reduce the risk of accidents. These principles promote safety and contribute to an improved quality of life. Here are some critical, safe, and accessible design principles:

Clear Pathways: Maintain clear and unobstructed pathways throughout the home. Adequate space for movement, including doorways and hallways wide enough to quarter mobility aids like wheelchairs or walkers, is crucial.

Slip-Resistant Flooring: Select flooring materials that offer slip resistance. It is crucial in humidity-prone areas, such as bathrooms and kitchens. Textured tiles, non-slip rugs, and matte finishes on hardwood or laminate floors can reduce the risk of slips and falls.

Handrails and Grab Bars: Strategically install handrails and grab bars, especially in bathrooms and along staircases. These assistive devices provide support and stability, making it easier for aging individuals to maintain balance.

Zero-Step Entries: Avoid any steps or thresholds at entry points to the home or between rooms. Zero-step entries eliminate tripping hazards and make moving around more accessible for those with mobility challenges.

Easy-to-Use Door Handles: Replace doorknobs with lever-style handles. These are more accessible and easier for individuals with limited hand strength or dexterity.

Proper Lighting: Ensure appropriate and uniform lighting throughout the home. Adequate illumination helps persons with visual impairments navigate safely. Consider motion-sensor lighting for hallways, staircases, and other high-traffic areas.

Bathroom Safety: Use slip-resistant flooring, a curbless shower or walk-in bathtub, and strategically placed grab bars. Elevated toilets with handrails and a shower seat can further enhance safety.

Universal Design Concepts

Universal design is an inclusive approach to interior design that seeks to create living spaces that are usable and accessible to people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. It focuses on creating functional, aesthetically pleasing environments and accommodating diverse needs. Here are some critical universal design concepts:

No-Step Entries: Universal design often starts at the entrance. Homes with no-step entries, such as gently sloped ramps or level thresholds, are accessible to everyone, including those with vigor challenges, parents with strollers, or individuals carrying heavy loads.

Wide Doorways and Hallways: Wider doorways and hallways allow for easy movement and accommodate mobility aids like wheelchairs or walkers. This design principle ensures that everyone can comfortably navigate the space.

Lever-Style Handles: Unlike traditional doorknobs, Lever handles are more accessible. They require less hand strength and agility, making them accessible to people with various physical abilities.

Open Floor Plans: Open floor plans eliminate barriers and create a sense of spaciousness. They provide more room to move around and can be adapted for different functions, making the space usable for various activities.

Adjustable Countertops: Countertops with adjustable heights are versatile and cater to the needs of various users. They can be lowered for seated tasks or raised for standing work, accommodating individuals with differing abilities.

Roll-In Showers: Roll-in showers with zero thresholds allow individuals with mobility issues to enter the shower area without obstacles. These showers can also accommodate shower chairs or benches.

Flexibility in Furniture: Choose furniture that is adaptable and easy to reconfigure. This flexibility allows users to create personalized arrangements and comfortably accommodate different needs and preferences.

Universal design is about creating spaces that are not just accessible but also user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing. These concepts emphasize inclusivity, flexibility, and a focus on the diverse needs of individuals. By incorporating universal design principles, interior spaces become welcoming, accommodating, and functional for everyone, regardless of age or ability.

Functional Home Layout

A functional home layout is crucial to designing residences for aging in comfort and ensuring that living spaces are safe and accessible. It involves strategically organizing rooms and furniture to maximize convenience, mobility, and comfort for individuals of all ages and abilities. Here are the critical elements of a functional home layout:

Open Floor Plans: Open floor plans build spacious and unobstructed living areas. They eliminate barriers, allowing for ease of movement and navigation. Open layouts are versatile, accommodating various activities and furniture arrangements.

Clear Pathways: Maintain clear and comprehensive pathways throughout the home. It includes hallways and doorways that are free of clutter and obstacles. A well-organized space allows for safe and unhindered movement.

Flexibility in Room Use: Design rooms with flexible functions in mind. For instance, a room can serve as a guest bedroom, home office, or exercise space, depending on the individual’s needs. Multi-purpose rooms enhance the utility of the home.

Accessible Storage: Closets, cabinets, and storage spaces should be accessible and user-friendly. Utilize pull-out drawers, lower shelving, and organizational systems to make reaching and organizing belongings easier.

Bedroom Location: Consider locating the primary bedroom on the main floor. It reduces the need to navigate stairs daily, promoting accessibility and convenience.

Bathroom Proximity: Ensure a bathroom is near the primary living areas. Easy bathroom access is essential for individuals with mobility or toileting needs.

Kitchen Efficiency: Opt for a kitchen layout that is efficient and ergonomic. Lower countertops and pull-out shelves can make meal preparation more manageable for everyone.

Laundry Accessibility: Place the laundry area on the main floor or near the primary living spaces. It minimizes the need to carry heavy loads up and down stairs.

Furniture Placement: Arrange furniture to create clear and unobstructed pathways. Ensure enough space around the table for easy navigation, and avoid overcrowded rooms.

A well-thought-out functional home layout supports independent living and promotes accessibility for individuals of all abilities. It maximizes convenience and safety, allowing occupants to easily navigate the space and maintain a high quality of life as they age. Whether designing a new home or modifying an existing one, a functional layout is fundamental to creating a comfortable and accessible living space.

Kitchen and Bathroom Modifications

The kitchen and bathroom are two of the most critical areas in a home regarding aging in place. These spaces require specific modifications to ensure safety, accessibility, and comfort. Here are essential kitchen and bathroom modifications:

Kitchen Modifications

Lower Countertops: Lowering countertop heights allows individuals to work comfortably or with reduced bending, making food preparation more accessible.

Accessible Sinks: Install sinks with open space beneath, letting someone in a wheelchair roll underneath. These sinks make tasks like dishwashing and food prep more convenient.

Lever Faucets: Lever-style faucets are more accessible for individuals with limited hand strength or dexterity. They offer a more accessible option compared to traditional knobs.

Drawer Dishwashers: Drawer-style dishwashers minimize the need to stoop or bend, as they can be loaded from waist height.

Easy-to-Reach Appliances: Consider relocating frequently used appliances, like microwaves and ovens, to waist or counter height to reduce the need to bend or reach overhead.

Bathroom Modifications

Walk-In Bathtubs: Walk-in bathtubs with built-in doors are an accessible alternative for those who prefer baths over showers. These tubs allow for easier entry and exit.

Elevated Toilets: Higher toilets with grab bars or handrails assist individuals in sitting down and standing up. They are easier to use for those with mobility limitations.

Lever Handles: Lever-style handles on faucets, cabinet doors, and shower controls are user-friendly for individuals with limited hand strength or dexterity.

Accessible Sink: An accessible sink, often wall-mounted with open space underneath, allows wheelchair users to reach the faucet and wash their hands quickly.

These modifications are instrumental in transforming the kitchen and bathroom into accessible, user-friendly, and safe spaces. Whether designing a new room or retrofitting an existing one, these adjustments help individuals of all ages and abilities enjoy these essential home areas quickly and confidently.


Designing residences for aging in comfort is a multifaceted and significant endeavor. It involves creating safe, accessible, and inviting living spaces that empower individuals to maintain their independence and enjoy their homes to the fullest, regardless of their age or abilities. By understanding the principles of aging-in-place design and embracing universal design concepts, we can transform our homes into lifelong sanctuaries of comfort and well-being.

By taking classes for interior design, such as education, you’ll be well-prepared to work on projects prioritizing the well-being and quality of life of individuals who wish to age comfortably in their homes.



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