Laundry chores can be a burden to everyone, but can be even more problematic for the elderly or those that have physical limitations. This is especially true in areas like laundry rooms that often lacking amenities. Most people, regardless of their abilities, prefer to do their laundry themselves. If you are remodeling your home for aging in place, buying or building, here are some things for you to consider.
As with the main bedroom and kitchen, having the laundry room on the main floor of the home is important for easier access. Having these facilities near will help ensure that you have fewer obstacles in reaching the room and less distance to navigate with any load you may carry. If the laundry room is not on the main floor, you may wish to do some home remodeling to create a new laundry space on that floor, convert an existing room into a laundry room or install a dumb waiter. If you cannot move the facilities and stairs are an issue, you might want to look into a stair lift or elevator.
Remodeling for aging in place includes revamping your spaces to create a more usable, easier-to-access or safer rooms in your home. You should ensure you can get in and out of the room easily. Remove or move any objects that may partially block entrance or hinder moving around inside the room. Also, things need to be in easy reach. Keep cabinets and counter tops in close proximity to appliances for easy transfers. If they are too far away you cannot easily get clothing from and to the washing machine and dryer. Too close, and you’ll not have enough room to maneuver. When planning, keep in mind you might one day have to use this room with a walker or wheelchair; plenty of open space is key in the room and in the doorway.
There are many companies that say their washing machines and dryers are easier to use. However, experts agree that front-loading washers and dryers are the choice for creating an accessible laundry room. They are easier to load and unload, aren’t are hard on a person’s back and require less movement to load and unload. If you are in a wheelchair they are much easier to use. Also, installing a pedestal under your washer and dryer will reduce back strain. Finally, any appliance for aging in place should have clear, easily-read controls and should be easy to use.
Cabinets, Counters and Shelves
The proper counters and cabinets can make or break a laundry room. The two things you need to keep in mind when choosing cabinets or storage are: functional and accessible.
- If space does not permit plenty of cabinet space, consider one between or next to the washer and dryer.
- Install “D” handles (pull handles) on all drawers and doors. This will make them easily opened for people of all abilities, including older people who have more difficulty in grasping knobs.
- Make sure you provide some counter space for folding and sorting
- If you are installing new cabinets, consider counter tops at varying heights or adjustable counter tops. This will ensure everyone can reach and use some of the counter space
- Have roll-out shelves installed to make everything easier to get to.
- Adjustable and/or open shelving (with no doors) can also make things easier to get to.
- Fold-down shelves next to the dryer or counter tops are handy for laundry and can be collapsed when not in use
If you are installing a new sink, consider one that is wall-mounted or allows roll-under access. This will ensure that a person in a wheel chair or power chair can reach it properly, or allow for someone to sit at it without difficulty. Also, choose a faucet that has lever handles for easy use.
Having plenty of light is the right choice in any room, but especially for someone that is older or already has problems seeing. Installing extra lights over work areas will ensure proper lighting where you need it most. Consider task-lighting to help out in areas that are particularly dark.
As with the bathroom and kitchen, make sure the flooring is a non-slip surface. Also, discard (recommended) or tape down any throw rugs or mats.
- If you are remodeling or moving things around, consider that someday someone in a wheelchair might be using the space
- Use colored stickers or other markings on washer and dryer settings to help those with reduced eyesight or memory problems.
- If you must use appliances with knobs get one with large knobs. Better yet, use appliances with large buttons instead.
- For appliances with back-lit or computer displays, make sure they are bright and have large letters and numbers
- Carefully plan your space so items like detergent and cleaners can be easily reached from the areas you will need them
- Consider using containers or dispensers that are clearly labeled, and easy to hold and use
- Install an ironing board that folds down from the wall and can be adjusted to the proper height. Traditional ironing boards are hard to setup and take down, are heavy and could potentially be useless to people with diminished physical capabilities.
- Keep a small cart or rolling table nearby. A rolling cart at the right height can really help someone with diminished strength in transferring clothes or moving them to a folding area.
- Consider using a rolling hamper. This will make it even easier for someone to get clothes to the laundry room.
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