Looking for a new house when you’re over 50 is quite a different matter from getting your foot on the property ladder as a youngster.
Older people hunting for a house or flat need to consider whether the accommodation will still suit them in 10, 20 or 30 years’ time. After all, they probably won’t be able to get around so easily, so they will want to stay in their new house for as long as possible.
Here are some tips from experts on what to look out for – apart from obvious obstacles like high doorsteps and steep stairs.
Stairlifts can be easily retrofitted on most types of domestic staircase – except winding ones, according to the Association Of Private Builders (VPB) in Berlin, Germany. The staircase should be at least 70cm wide, and the edges of the steps should not protrude over the risers.
Germany’s Federal Ministry For Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) recommends that staircases have handrails on both sides.
Doors and windows
To allow for the passage of walking frames, wheelchairs and stretchers, doors should be at least 80cm wide, says the Barrier-Free Bathroom Initiative.
There should also be ample space in front of doors to turn and manoeuvre – at best between 1.2 sq m and 1.5 sq m. And it’s important that doors and windows are easy to operate. Lift-and-slide doors to patios and balconies take a lot of strength to open and close.
Windows should be low enough that you can look outside comfortably while sitting, advises the German National Association Of Senior Citizens’ Organisations (BAGSO). The BMFSFJ recommends that balustrades be transparent above a height of 60cm.
Are the walls sturdy enough to support safety grab bars and handles? In some newer, age-friendly housing, bathroom grips are pre-installed beneath plaster and tiling.
A shower should be at floor level and have enough space for a folding chair or stool. And the bathtub should allow a low step-in and have a slip-resistant surface.
Oft-used electrical outlets should be 70cm from the floor (some experts even recommend 85cm). When arm strength diminishes with age, it’s a good idea to have motorised rolling shutters as well as automatic window openers. Window handles, heating controls and light switches should also be at easy-to-reach heights, the BAGSO advises.