Is it possible that design elements may slow age-related decline? If we are planning to stay in a home for a very long time, are there design elements that can be incorporated now, that will be helpful to us in our later years?
Forever Homes: Chad DeWitt and Ageless Design
Chad DeWitt of Framestudio Architecture thinks we can and should future proof the design of our homes
These are questions that creative director Chad DeWitt at Framestudio Architecture is passionate about answering. The answer to both seems to be a big yes. If one is sequestered in a low-stimulation cocoon, a person of any age will decline. That much would seem obvious. It is also telling that people who live in places of high social, mental, and physical stimulation and challenge seem to live longer than those who don’t. Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones and our own research indicate this to be true.
Why, then, is there such a prevalence, especially in the US, for the opposite? Or as Dan Hutson likes to say, the cruise-ship-in-the-desert model of aging. Yikes. Count me out of that one. 90% of people surveyed want to age in their own homes. If one was building a new home, or renovating an existing one, are there design elements that can be brought in that will, in effect, future proof the design?
Stairs are actually great, as they force an activity. But the chance of any of us over our life span having some sort of leg/hip/ankle injury that will make the stairs a problem is high. I broke a bone in my foot at age 48 and was on crutches during a snowy winter in NYC. My loft had no elevator service on the weekend. I managed to get around, but it was less than ideal. Will I break an ankle in a bike accident like our friend John did this past weekend? Let’s hope not, but given I have another 25-40 years in front of me, the odds are something will happen.
The solution is not so much to eliminate stairs, but to have a room on the first floor next to a bathroom that can be used as a bedroom if needed. But there is so much more that can be done. Those horrible steel grab bars? Why not a pleasant-looking well-designed ledge with the same functional utility? Easy. The problem is that the design thinking around this sector has, at best, been in a lazy default mode. This is where Chad comes in. His approach is to question this less than satisfactory situation with some fresh thinking and investigation. He recently wrote this piece about the topic.
and beautiful homes for retirement in a single-level home only (with no other option), decorated with electric lift-assist chairs and with enough padding and metallic grab bars that it begins to resemble the very casket we’re all trying to avoid.”
We are feeling a massive shift in how we are looking at what our later years can be. Perhaps it is something like Jan Garde’s Embassies of Good Living, perhaps it is future-proofing our homes. We will be investigating much more on this topic in the months ahead.