The Truth About…Stairs

Kathy Vendel February 24, 2016

The Truth About…StairsGetting older isn't something most of us want to think about. We like the idea of always being active and youthful. We even think of our parents as remaining healthy and spry.

When we're out shopping for a new home, however, we need to take into consideration the length of time we plan on owning that home. Do we see ourselves living in this area for years to come? Will we be raising our children here? Is it possible that our aging parents would come to live with us in this house?

If we answer "yes" to any of these questions, we need to think about stairs!

When we first have children, we think about the danger to them of stairs as they are learning to crawl, climb and walk. Some families wait to move into a home that has stair until after their children are old enough to negotiate the stairs.

A great many family homes these days incorporate beautiful stairways with living areas on the main floor and bedrooms above. We don't really think about those stairs as we are aging in place because we use them every day. In fact, the majority of the nation's homes are built with two or more stories, or they are set over a basement. Many of those homes also do not have a bedroom or full bath on the main floor. It is only when something happens to our health … we break a leg, have surgery, an older parent comes to live with us … that we rethink having stairs.

As you age, the stairs once more become a danger zone that can slow you down or reduce your quality of life. If you are unable to negotiate the stairs, they become an obstacle in your home or even a hazard due to potential falls.

Ranch-style houses, so popular in the middle of the last century, have fallen out of favor. They do not have the curb appeal of a two-story structure and sometimes they get a bad rap for having less space, or for having a larger footprint so that there is less available yard space. For ease of living and convenience, however, a single-story structure can span the decades much more easily than a multi-story townhome or two-story home over a walk-out basement.

While you certainly should buy the home of your dreams, when you are looking for homes, consider adding in these options to your quest:

  • No stairs, OR
  • A bedroom on the main living floor
  • A full bath on the main floor
  • A limited number of stairs at access points such as the front or back entry or from the garage into the house.

If you are building your new home and intend to live there well into your retirement years, and, you love the look of a beautiful staircase, take care to design in such a way that you can add a lift to the stairway if necessary. Or, configure the design so that you have a full bath and bedroom suite on the main floor. In fact, in a program created by the builders association and AARP, builders can earn a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist designation. Certified builders can look at your home to determine if there is a way to increase the access in your home as you age.

As always, let your real estate professional know your needs and concerns so that we select homes specific to your requirements to fall in love with.

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