I’m reminded of the theme of the popular Disney movie, The Lion King, as my wife and I will soon become empty nesters after raising three children.

We started our journey of home ownership together with building our first home, a bi-level, in 1976. Now 40 years later and 2 new two-story homes we are looking to down size from 2600 square foot to a smaller ranch style home. Not only are we interested in reducing the size of the home to save time cleaning and reduce utility cost, but we also plan to address features and construction techniques that will allow us to age in place and remain independent so we can live in our own home as long as possible.

The checklist below is not all-encompassing but will serve as a quick reference for some of what I believe is the main considerations for aging in place and addressing the use of a wheelchair, should the need arise.

  • Kitchen with easy transition between the sink, range, and refrigerator.
  • A no-step entry at the 36” front door with sidelight or low peephole for security.
  • Ramp with handrail versus steps to the porch with at least a 5’ landing.
  • Motion light at the front door, foyer, hallways, and bathroom.
  • Adequate width of garage to accommodate a van with a lift.
  • Interior doors with lever hardware and hallways at least 36” in width.
  • Base Cabinetry to include pull out shelves and lazy susans.
  • Microwave oven to sit on the countertop or build into the base cabinets.
  • Cooktop range with level burners and warming light for safety.
  • Task lighting in appropriate areas of the kitchen.
  • Rocker style electric switches and thermostat 48” from the floor.
  • Bath vanities raised to approximately 34 ½”.
  • Toilets raised approximately 2” with grab bar.
  • Grab bars in the tub and shower.
  • Curbless shower with a 36” minimum opening and handheld showerhead.

Ranch style homes are very popular reducing the need for stairs to accessing only the basement. Two story and Cape Cod style homes can address stair use to living areas with an elevator or stair lift.