Originally published on couriermail.com.au and reproduced here with permission.
Alma Ronlund may have downsized her home maintenance since moving to a retirement village, but she has upsized her lifestyle.
The intrepid 85-year-old moved to Azure Blue Redcliffe last year, relocating from her family home of more than 27 years in Tewantin, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
“It was time to move,” she said.
While Mrs Ronlund moved to be closer to family and increase her social connections, she has also found her new home to be welcoming, easy to maintain, and enabling of her busy life.
“I’ve got a lot of living to do yet,” she said. “I’m flying over Antarctica in January, then doing the Indian-Pacific in August. I want to do a cruise after that. I’ve already done my hot air ballooning.
“You’ve got to get up and live. That’s what I like about being here.”
Not only is she loving the social aspect of her new home, but it has been designed to make her day-to-day living easier. Her two-bedroom unit is located on the ground floor, without stairs to worry about.
The oven is set lower, the benches are at her height and access points are wider, allowing for the walker Mrs Ronlund uses to stay mobile and catch up with friends.
“It makes it easier for me to get around, that’s all,” she said, of the design features aimed at ageing in place.
“It’s made for an older person with more needs. The shower is great, it has a wide shower door and the main door is wide. The courtyard out the front has a wide-access door and security screens.
“I can nip down to the café and have a meal at the café and converse with people. It’s a real social thing and that has made a real difference in my life.”
SMART DESIGN TO ENJOY YOUR HOME
There is a growing interest in age-proofing your home as the Australian population changes. More than 16 per cent of us are aged over 65 - a figure that’s set to rise. These people want to keep living their lives and do things for themselves. With smart design, that is often possible.
Livable Housing Australia (a not-for-profit partnership between government, community, and industry) highlights the importance of smart design to keep people living independently. This includes elements such as a safe step-free path from the street, and internal doors and corridors that facilitate comfortable movement.
Other adaptations include bathrooms with a hobless shower recess, reinforced walls in bathrooms to support grab rails, adjustments in kitchens, switches and power points at accessible heights, and doors that can be opened and closed easily.
Architect Frank Ehrenberg, the principal and regional director for Marchese Partners/Life3A which has a focus on designing for ageing in place, said design principles for ageing help to deliver creative and innovative solutions to realise the opportunities, needs and concerns of people as they get older.
“As we age, our mobility decreases, as well as audio, visual and tactile bodily functions.
“Therefore, it is important to design the spaces we live in to suit our abilities at that stage of our lives.”
He suggested people consider their future needs, and opt for a home with enough space to turn without bumping yourself, no height difference between indoor and outdoor areas, and accessible storage. He also said it was important to consider building materials, for example choosing flooring that was less likely to be slippery.
“Thoughtful design can enable older persons to continue living independently and with dignity,” Mr Ehrenberg said.
BlueCare General Manager, Retirement Living, Natalie Smith said their villages were built for independent living, with thoughtful additions to support residents as they grow older.
“We know maintaining a full-sized family home can become challenging,” she said. “We use practical additions such as dishwasher drawers, waist-height ovens and non-twist taps to make them easier to use.
“Where possible, we also do flat flooring, internal laundries and hobless shower recesses to minimise potential risks.”
For Mrs Ronlund, this all adds up to a contented life, with additional social aspects but without the maintenance of her previous home.
“I didn’t downsize all that much,” she said. “My unit is as big as my old house. This just suits me perfectly. It’s easy to clean and the kitchen is beautiful. It’s a lovely big kitchen. That sold me when I looked at the unit.
“I can recommend it to anybody who needs to move. It’s a good life here, I’m happy.”