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Written: Ir. MA Lee Tak

According to the Universal Design Guidebook For Residential Development In Hong Kong published by the Hong Kong Housing Society, the dimension of living space is related to the psychological health and physical well being of residents, particularly those who spend long period of time at home.  Headroom and room areas are two essential considerations.  It is recommended that:

  • The clear headroom of living/dining rooms and bedrooms shall be not less than 2.5m.
  • Minimum room areas and dimensions shall be as follows:

Room

Recommended minimum areas (length & width)

Living/dining room

14m2 (3.5m x 4m)

Single-bed room

5m2 (2m x 2.5m)

Double-bed room

9.5m2 (2.7m x 3.5m)

Master bedroom

11m2 (2.9m x 3.8m)

Kitchen

4m2 (1.8m x 2.7m)

Toilet with shower

3.3m2 (1.8m x 1.8m)


As most dwellings in Hong Kong may not fully meet the above living space requirements, it is necessary to give more thoughts to the interior design.  If there is an elderly person who needs to be lifted or transferred to a wheelchair, there should be adequate space for such maneuvering.  Space in the living/dining room and the corridor would have to be made used of if space in the dwelling is not big enough for such a purpose.
 
It is recommended that an elderly person's bedroom should be located near the living/dining room, preferably close to the front door, so as to shorten the distance of wheelchair movement.  The bathroom and toilet used by the elderly person should preferably be adjacent to his or her bedroom.  The bedroom wall and door next to the corridor and living/dining room can all be replaced with sliding doors if necessary, thereby making it easier to use the space of the corridor and living/dining room to attend to the elderly person.  Sliding doors help reduce the thickness of walls and the space required for opening and closing doors.  Sliding doors may take the form of thick opaque glass fitted in metal frames, and thick plastic strips can be affixed to the metal frames for soundproofing.
 
The bedroom of an elder should be kept neat and tidy.  If he or she needs to be attended to by a family member or domestic helper at night, it would be convenient to have a foldable bed, extendable bed or loft bed in place.  If the elder is bedridden and needs nursing care, an electric nursing bed and electric air mattress against bedsores may be considered.
 
To have more quality time with family, the elder at home should be encouraged to sit or lie down in the living/dining room, or to watch TV together with other family members.  A wheeled reclining high back chair could thus be provided for the elder, though sofa space might have to be compromised in considering the layout of living/dining room.
 
A well-fitted home plays a key role in enhancing the harmony of families with elders, benefiting their physical and mental health, as well as relieving the pressure on carers in looking after the elderly.