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How to Design an Elderly-Friendly Home

Moving into a new home with your elderly parents or grandparents? Then it’s time to consider an elderly-friendly design that won’t endanger the old folks or help them get around easily without having to go through an extended obstacle course.

In a bid to encourage multi-generational living, the Housing Development Board (HDB) launched 84 ‘three-generation’ flats in 2013. Such flats, which have 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, are about 5sqm larger than the current 5-room flats. If you’ve always wanted to stay in a multi-generation home like what our ancestors used to do, then this is indeed good news. But even if necessity requires you to stay with your elderly parents (or in-laws) or grandparents, having anElderly-friendly Home is definitely a plus point. In fact, an ideal home environment should be maintenance-friendly and help the seniors to see and read clearly, do and reach for things easily without endangering their well-being. Here is a list of recommendations by the Building & Construction Authority (BCA) plus a few other tips that we found for you.



  • Fix a tap that comes with a level handle and a pull-out flexible hose that can be extended
  • Consider choosing an induction cooker hob instead of a gas cooker hob for safety reasons

CX 480 Induction Hob from Gaggenau (price upon request)



  • Build wardrobes at a suitable height to ensure easy access for elders on wheelchairs
  • Install 2-way switches with a maximum height of 1200mm above floor level so that the elderly doesn’t have to cross their room in the dark to operate the room lights, one switch should be installed near their bed while the other should be near the bedroom door
  • If that’s not possible, a bedside lamp is highly recommended as well for nightly bathroom trips



Living Room

  • Ensure a minimum manoeuvring space of 1250mm by 1500mm at your home’s main entrance
  • Keep your home, especially the circulation path and entrances, free of any obstacles, projection or protrusions
  • Install eye-viewers at an appropriate height on the main door
  • Install visual doorbells that come with vibration or light indicators, along with the audio feature, if you live with an elderly who has a hearing impairment




  • Install a shower head that can be adjusted to appropriate heights
  • Use taps with level handles
  • Install emergency aids such as a call bell
  • The call bell should be equipped with a water-proof push-button or pull-chord that enables the elderly to activate the bell, it should also be in a colour that contrasts with its background
  • It’s also recommended to install a metal plate at the bathroom door that allows it to open both ways in an emergency
  • Install pedestal water closet seats instead of the squat toilet
  • If necessary, put a bath/shower chair so the elderly can bathe in comfort




  • Make sure there is adequate lighting (natural and artificial) as the elderly typically needs 2 to 3 times more illumination than a younger person
  • Avoid direct glare by screening direct light sources like the windows
  • Cut down on reflected glare by reducing reflective surfaces on floors or walls and avoid putting mirrors near light sources

Odyssey by Spell© ($2,496) from Dream Interiors



  • There shouldn’t be any sudden drop or variation in floor level
  • Floors should also be stable, firm, slip-resistant and kept dry as much as possible
  • Avoid using reflective surfaces such as marble, granite or glazed tiles as they could be hazardous when wet, greasy or highly polished
  • In places like the bathroom/toilet, a non-slip mat should be provided




  • Install sliding doors for easier access if you have adequate wall space
  • Should you go for swing doors, ensure that they swing outwards so that it’s easier for the rescuer to gain access if the elderly falls behind the door
  • Other options include doors with push-pull mechanisms, U-shaped handles or lever handles as the elderly may have difficulty grasping and turning a door knob
  • Door colours should ideally be of a mid-tone colour so as to contrast with the walls and skirting
  • Architraves and door frames should be of a darker colour to help define surface junctions and openings while contrasting with floors, walls and doors


For Overall Safety

  • Provide a sufficient number of grab bars (with groove patterns for better grip) in places like the bathrooms/toilets, along the circulation path to the elderly’s bedroom and at an accessible distance from the main door
  • Ensure that there are no trailing electrical wires or telephone lines to prevent accidental trips
  • For easier control of lights, it’s recommended that you install large rocker light switches
  • Store items at an appropriate height so the need to bend, climb or stretch to reach high points is eliminated
  • Buy furniture with rounded edges, have fewer detachable parts and are made from durable materials
  • Where possible, get items that have a large display with big fonts or buttons and have a good contrast between the letters and background e.g. telephones with large dial buttons


Stellar Side Table by Spell© ($582) from Dream Interiors

3200 Super Grip Suction Type Grab Bar 16¼” ($37.45 nett) from Lifeline

It might seem a little troublesome to create an elder-friendly environment for the loved ones who are getting on in years. But think about it this way: when you design a home that allows the elderly to retain their independence and dignity on a daily basis, it helps to improve their morale and reduces the possibility of depression. It also lessens the burden on caregivers, who may already be overstretched by their own job and families. With a population that’s progressively ageing, the government is moving towards building an elderly-friendly society so let’s do our part for the old folks too!

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