Ageing in place: The liveable and adaptable home

Written and accurate as at: 14 February 2022

According to research*, “Many older Australians say that they desire to ‘age in place’; that is, to remain in their current accommodation, compared with moving into specialised care, or even moving at all.

Though, it must be noted that housing and care needs change as people age. For instance, with increasing age and the corresponding increasing rate of disability, more people need housing with accessibility features.



In terms of the above, this is something we have previously discussed via the three retirement chapters:

  • The early chapter (from age 60 approx.):
    • Housing: An individual may find themselves comfortably living in their existing home, and therefore, continue to reside there. Coupled with this, an individual may undertake renovations, or wish to upgrade by purchasing a new home.
    • Care: An individual may find themselves self-sufficient in terms of their daily living and care needs.
  • The middle chapter (from age 65 approx.):
    • Housing: An individual may find it increasingly difficult to maintain their home and their growing need for age-appropriate layout/facilities. Coupled with this, they may possibly consider downsizing or undertaking home modifications.
    • Care: An individual may find their mind and body start to slow down. So, it’s possible they may require assistance with daily living, including low-to-moderate levels of home care.
  • The late chapter (from age 75 approx.):
    • Housing: An individual may find a growing need for more complex medical intervention, which could result in moving into a residential aged care facility.
    • Care: An individual may find their mind and body has declined significantly. So, there’s a growing need for specialised care—moderate-to-high levels of home care or moving into residential care.

When considering the above, and future housing and care needs planning, the liveable and adaptable home concept may be of benefit to pre-retirees and retirees—and those providing informal care for loved ones.

Broadly speaking, a liveable home is one that is designed to meet the changing needs of most occupants throughout their lifetime. And, an adaptable home builds upon the principles of a liveable home by including features for easy adaptability and accessibility should the occupant become less mobile.

In a nutshell, occupants may find they are able to remain in a liveable and adaptable home for longer because their housing and care needs can be met over a greater time period. With this in mind, although not a complete list, below are some considerations regarding liveable and adaptable home design and features.


Liveable & adaptable home: Design & features*

Exterior area

Housing and care needs considerations


  • Use of sensor lights.
  • Undercover parking spaces with wheelchair access and located close to an entry and exit.
  • Installation of electronically operated garage doors, where applicable.

Access and entry

  • The entrance should be level and sheltered, with wheelchair manoeuvrability.
  • Easy access from street and parking spaces, with a step-free path of travel.
  • Well-lit access paths with well-drained, solid, non-slip surfaces and a high colour contrast to surrounding garden areas.

Interior area

Housing and care needs considerations


  • Internal doors with a minimum width of 820mm and passageways with a minimum width of 1000mm.
  • Electrical outlets placed at a minimum of 600mm above the floor and light switches and other controls placed at a height range of 900−1100mm.
  • A clear circulation space within living areas and sleeping spaces^ for wheelchair manoeuvrability—2250mm diameter (living area) and 1550mm wide by 2070mm long (sleeping space).

Cooking spaces

  • To accommodate a wheelchair user, portions of work surfaces to be constructed at a lower level than those for standing users, and with leg room underneath.
  • Appropriately sized workspaces to the side of all appliances, coupled with short distances between the cooktop, workspaces and sink.
  • Contrasting colours between benchtops and cupboard fronts to assist the visually impaired, and appropriately designed task lighting.

Wet areas

  • Installation of non-slip surfaces, hand basins with leg space, and mirrors that can be used either standing or seated.
  • Showers designed without hobs, plus shower, bath, and toilet walls to include reinforced studs allowing for grab rail installation at a later date.
  • In the laundry, provision of a minimum circulation space 1550mm deep in front or beside appliances, and taps located to the side of any laundry tub.

*Australian Government. (2022). Your Home: The liveable and adaptable home; making your home liveable and adaptable.

^If a multi-level home, consideration could be given towards the ground floor having a living area, kitchen, accessible bathroom and a space appropriate for use as a bedroom. In addition, to further facilitate multi-level access, consideration could also be given towards a straight flight of stairs and floor plans that allow for the future installation of vertical lifts or staircase lifts.


Moving forward

Many older Australians desire to age in place. However, housing and care needs can and often change as people age. When considering this, and future housing and care needs planning, the liveable and adaptable home concept may be of benefit to pre-retirees and retirees—and those providing informal care for loved ones.

If you have any queries about this article, please contact us.

*Australian Government, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2013). The desire to age in place among older Australians.