As our loved ones age, ensuring their comfort, safety, and proximity becomes a priority. One solution that has gained popularity in recent years is the construction of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) specifically designed for aging parents. These standalone living spaces provide a sense of independence while allowing them to remain close to family. If you are considering building an ADU for your aging parents, here are some essential design considerations to create a comfortable and accessible space that meets their needs.

Single-Level Living

Designing an ADU with a single level is crucial to ensure easy mobility and reduce the risk of accidents. Eliminating stairs and steps allows your aging parents to navigate the space effortlessly, even if they have mobility challenges. Consider a layout that provides easy access to all essential areas, including the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and living areas.

Wide Doorways and Hallways

When planning the ADU’s layout, incorporate wide doorways and hallways to accommodate mobility aids such as walkers or wheelchairs. Aim for doorways that are at least 36 inches wide to ensure easy passage and maneuverability. Similarly, hallways should be wide enough to allow smooth movement between rooms.

Accessibility Features

Integrate accessibility features throughout the ADU to enhance comfort and independence. This may include installing grab bars in the bathroom, ensuring a zero-step entry at the main entrance, and selecting lever-style door handles that are easier to operate than traditional doorknobs. Additionally, consider installing non-slip flooring in high-risk areas to prevent accidents.

Well-Designed Bathroom

The bathroom is a critical area that requires careful planning. Incorporate a roll-in shower with grab bars and a built-in shower bench to facilitate bathing. A raised toilet seat with grab bars can also significantly enhance safety and convenience. Additionally, ensure there is sufficient space for maneuverability, allowing for easy navigation with mobility aids.

Functional and Open Kitchen

Design a kitchen that promotes accessibility and convenience. Opt for lower countertops and cabinets to allow easy reach and avoid excessive bending or stretching. Consider installing pull-out shelves or drawers to maximize storage accessibility. Ensure there is enough space for a wheelchair to maneuver comfortably within the kitchen area.

Ample Lighting

Adequate lighting is essential for older individuals with vision impairments. Incorporate a mix of natural and artificial lighting to create a well-lit and inviting space. Install light switches at convenient heights and consider motion sensor lighting in hallways and bathrooms to minimize the risk of falls during nighttime visits.

Thoughtful Storage Solutions

Aging parents may require additional storage space for medical supplies, mobility aids, and personal belongings. Include well-planned storage solutions that are easily accessible, such as closets with adjustable shelving or built-in storage units that can accommodate their specific needs.

Outdoor Accessibility

Extend the focus on accessibility to the outdoor areas of the ADU. Ensure that pathways leading to the entrance are wide, well-maintained, and equipped with handrails if necessary. If possible, create a small outdoor sitting area that allows your parents to enjoy fresh air and sunlight without obstacles.

Privacy and Independence

While designing the ADU, prioritize creating a space that offers privacy and a sense of independence for your aging parents. Consider separate entrances, soundproofing measures, and thoughtful placement of windows and curtains to provide them with a private retreat within the property.

Seek Professional Advice

Building an ADU for aging parents involves numerous considerations, from construction regulations to accessibility standards. It is advisable to consult with professionals experienced in ADU design and construction to ensure compliance and create a space that meets the unique needs of your parents.