9 Aging in Place Lessons from The Golden Girls’ House

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Have you ever watched an episode of the beloved 1980s sitcom, The Golden Girls, and wondered whether their Miami home was really designed for four senior ladies as they get older? Well, the Golden Girls’ house can teach us a lot about the elements every aging-ready home should have to remain active and vibrant in our golden years.

It’s critical that a home intended for aging in place be able to meet to the needs of people of all ages and abilities, including residents and visitors. Aging in place is not only staying in a home of your choosing but also living comfortably and remaining active as long as possible into your later years of life.

Florida home with palm trees and accessibility for aging in place

Although the lively four, Dorothy, Blanche, Rose and Sophia, are in good health, a home that is genuinely aging in place ready has characteristics and the flexibility to address age-related difficulties that become more prevalent during the later decades of life.

6 key features of a home for aging in place

Let’s take a look at how The Golden Girls house rates on the 6 essential features of an aging-ready home and the lessons that can be learned.

1) No step entrance

There are no steps leading from the front porch area into the main living room, which has seen it’s share of dramatic scenes. For aging-friendly entrances, a zero-step approach is ideal for convenience, accessibility and safety.

2) Single level living space

Like many Floridian homes, the Golden Girls house is a single story. A one floor home is the most convenient home style for aging in place since the main living spaces, including bedrooms and bathrooms, can be reached without climbing a flight of steps.

Stairs can be challenging to navigate especially with arthritic joints and balance deficits. Steps pose a significant fall hazard for aging adults and could lead to serious injuries.

There is a single step leading from the living room to the sitting area that leads to the lanai and outdoor spaces. Single steps are quite dangerous because they are unexpected as compared to a flight of stairs.

Since there is plenty of space in the living room, a ramp could be built at one part of the step and a railing installed at the remainder to increase safety and accessibility.

3) Wider exterior doorway

Many famous folks have entered The Golden Girls front door. From Burt Reynolds to Bob Hope, many well-known faces have walked through that doorway.

An aging-ready doorway is wider than average, at least 36 inches, to accomodate the width of a wheelchair or scooter. A wider doorframe also allows two people to walk side by side which is convenient for a caregiver who is assisting someone with or without a mobility device.

The front entrance doorway of the girls’ house appears to be at least 36 inches wide. Additionally, there is no threshold or lip on the floor that could pose a trip or fall danger to someone entering or exiting the home who is unsteady on their feet. A threshold lip is also a hindrance to someone using an assistive device such as a walker or wheelchair.

The glass door leading to the lanai or porch from the living room area is also wide enough for a wheelchair or scooter to pass through. Having at least two accssible exits in case of a fire is an important safety feature of any home.

4) Wider interior doorways

Wider interior doorways are another necessity for an future-ready home. It’s difficult to assess the width of bedroom and bathroom doors in the ladies’ home, but bathroom doorways tend to be especially narrow. All interior doorways should also be wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair or scooter, which is usually 36 inches.

The swinging door between the Golden Girls’ living room and kitchen is not a good choice for a senior’s home because it needs to be held open while passing through and there’s a chance someone could open the door into another person. For TV purposes, the swinging door adds drama and needed separation of stages, but isn’t a practical option in real life.

5) Wider hallways

The Golden Girls’ home is mostly open concept with few hallways. But the main hallway leading from the living room to the bedrooms and bathrooms appears to be at least 36 inches wide, the minimum width for aging in place design.

Hallways should be free of any obstructions that would interfere with someone using an assistive device such as a walker, cane, wheelchair or scooter. This would require removing a sidetable and vase of artificial grasses from the Golden Girls’ main hallway.

6) Accessible bathroom

The best part about The Golden Girls’ main bathroom is it’s expansive size. Everything was bigger in the ’80s and this room is no exception. This spacious blue and white tiled bath has some age-friendly features, but would benefit from a few modifications.

Plenty of space between bathroom fixtures and in the center of the room provides a lot of flexibility.

  • More than one person could use the bathroom at the same time
  • At least 5 feet of clear area in the center of the room where a wheelchair could easily maneuver without bumping into walls or bathroom fixtures
  • Plenty of space to have a caregiver assist with showering and using the toilet

Wheelchair accessible sink

The handicap accessible corner sink is an ideal feature for an aging in place bathroom. There is open space beneath the countertop so someone could use it from a sitting position since there is no vanity cabinet to hit their legs.

Having the ability to sit at the sink, whether in a chair or wheelchair, to wash your face and brush your teeth is a great feature for aging adults with limited endurance and mobility.

Roll-in shower

The ladies’ have a tub and shower combination with a large step to enter. Ideally, the shower would be a roll-in or walk-in shower without a step or even lip to cross. This would make it easier for someone who has difficulty walking or who uses a wheelchair or other assistive device to get into the shower.

Since the bathroom is so large, there is enough space to put a separate tub for those who enjoy a tub bath. A shower seat that’s either permanent or removable would also be a useful addition.

Higher toilet

One episode involves Dorothy and Rose replacing the toilet in what appears to be the main bathroom in the house. A toilet that’s slightly higher than average generally makes it easier for older adults to get up and sit down or transfer on and off the toilet from a wheelchair.

A standard toilet is about 15 inches high while a senior-friendly chair height toilet is 17 inches or more in height. The bottom line (pun intended)- just a few extra inches of toilet height can make a world of difference.

Aging in Place Golden Girls’ Style

With just a few minor modifications, the Golden Girls’ home could have all 6 key features of a home ready for aging in place. You can bet that as the gals grew older, they would have made the changes described so they could lead active lives throughout their senior years even as health issues arose.

Want to learn more about preparing your home for aging in place for you and your loved ones? Get my free Age Fearless Home Starter Guide and begin today!

About the Author

As a home health Physical Therapist for over 20 years, I help clients solve home dilemmas so they can live their best life.

I'm here to use that same problem-solving expertise and training as a Certified Aging in Place Specialist to help you create an optimized home that's forward-thinking and future-ready to support you and your loved ones well for a lifetime.

Ready to discover your Golden Girl strategy for a retirement-ready home?