Whether you’re 55, 65, 70 or beyond, it’s never too soon to start thinking about modifying or renovating your home to address potential physical challenges as you age. The good news is there are experts out there who can help make your home safer and more friendly to all ages and abilities, while maintaining an inviting and gracious aesthetic.

full-length-goodHome design expert and former nurse practitioner Marianne Brower experienced first-hand the challenges of living in her home while recuperating from unexpected joint replacement surgery. Together with Elissa Russo, who has devoted decades of her professional life to designing medical and dental offices, the two have tapped into a growing demand for beautifully designed spaces that enable people to age gracefully and safely in their environments.

Focused on creating beauty and implementing the principles of universal design, which combine a contemporary aesthetic and usability regardless of age, Brower and Russo Interior Design aims to “feed [our] clients emotionally,” says Russo. They are strong proponents of keeping connectivity with the outdoors, by utilizing easy to retract curtains and plants that need minimal care. They encourage the use of certain colors, textures and fabrics with “an earth element” to create a calm and relaxing environment.

So what do the two experts recommend for anyone who plans to remain in their home – be it 5, 10 or 20 years down the road?

dining-room-webFIRST, they advocate the use of universal design elements which promote a less cluttered (and safer) space with cleaner lines that contribute positively to resale value and even support multi-generational living.

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NEXT, consider a bathroom transformation as an important part of aging successfully at home. Universal design helps minimize hazards and falls by improving accessibility and safety. Key bathroom features would include a threshold-free (no step) entry into the shower along with a large opening, no-slip flooring – which usually means smaller tiles and more grout, and a bench. Full plywood backing in the shower ensures the safe and proper installation of shower seats and grab bars should they eventually be needed. Hand-held shower heads may become a necessity, even for the young boomer recovering from knee surgery.

kitchen-webIN KITCHEN remodels, add lower cabinetry and drawers to minimize or eliminate the need for stepstools or standing on chairs to retrieve plates and dishes. New universal design features incorporate upper shelving that is hinged to drop down for total accessibility. Consider installing countertops such as Silestone which has embedded antibacterial qualities and is easier to keep clean. Add countertops with staggered heights so everyone can help out in the kitchen.

BETTER lighting and improved placement of lights prevents tripping and falls as poorer vision plagues most of us as we age. This is important throughout the home, but particularly in the kitchen, says Brower, as inadequate lighting hampers your ability and desire to prepare nutritious meals.

THROUGHOUT the home, replace knobs on doors and faucets with lever handles, which are incredibly stylish and eliminate concerns should arthritis develop. Install no-slip flooring and declutter for improved safety and accessibility.

EXPLORE options to create a first/ground floor sleeping area and bathroom. Again, this comes in handy for the younger boomer as well, following joint replacement surgery.

IN ANY substantial renovation, widen doorways as needed and allocate closets and other space, along with the requisite electrical wiring, to accommodate a small residential elevator down the road. While this might seem unnecessary or even frivolous today, it could eventually mean the difference between staying in your home or being forced to leave when unforeseen physical challenges limit mobility.

Baby boomers themselves, Brower and Russo reflect on how their own personal circumstances influence their design approach, saying, “No one should have to sacrifice an inviting home to accommodate future needs.”

To learn more, visit www.BrowerandRussoInteriorDesign.com or call 914-946-5818 or email them at: marianne@browerandrusso.com or elissa@browerandrusso.com

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Susan E. Ross is founder/publisher/curator of Westchester Senior Voice print magazine and its accompanying website. She is a Certified Senior Advisor and part of the boomer generation. She is committed to informing and connecting readers to their community as they navigate their 55+ lives while sometimes also helping their aging parents- all with a tone of positivity, and the pursuit and expectation of successful aging.