Creating Senior- and Disabled-Friendly Hardscapes

Senior Woman on Hardscape WalkwayThere comes a time in life where we need to start looking ahead to creating senior- and disabled- friendly hardscapes. Because we are living longer, we are staying in our homes longer. That’s certainly great news, but when you’re thinking of improvement to make your home safe, don’t neglect the outdoor hardscaping.

It is possible to have hardscapes that are beautiful as well as senior-friendly! It takes good planning and communication with your contractor to achieve just this perfect blend of stylish looks and functionality.

Here are a few considerations:

Stable Surface

As we age, we become less sure of ourselves on foot.

Choose hardscape materials that are very steady under the foot. Whether you are looking for a patio or a walkway, this is a must. You don’t want loose or wobbly pavers. Make sure that they are permanently set into a very stable surface. You want to create a surface that won’t cause turns of the ankle or falls.

Additionally, keep in mind to not create trip hazards such as edges that could impair a rolling walker or a wheelchair.

Communicate with your landscape contractor that this project is for a senior citizen. He will be able to guide you on the best materials that he has to assist you with this.


Senior citizens can be targeted by criminals because they are slower to respond. Seniors love having good lighting incorporated into a landscaping plan. Setting a lighting plan when you are having the rest of the landscaping done ensures a seamless, high-end appearance.

Place lights at intervals that will guide the senior when he returns home in the evening. Also, illuminate any dark areas around the house such as shrubbery.

Setting lights on a timer will eliminate the need for the senior to remember to turn on the lights if she leaves home while it’s still light outside. Another great option is motion-detecting lights.

Wide Pathways

Look ahead and consider if a wheelchair could be a possibility. If there’s even a hint that it could be, you need to plan ahead and have your landscaper set any pathways to a width that can accommodate a wheelchair.

A standard wheelchair is 32” wide. This means you should plan your walkways to at least that width. However, this is a time when bigger is better! If you go to 38”, this allows a few  inches on either side for the senior to maneuver the wheelchair.

Beyond the basic function, this wide pathway will make for a tremendous focal point for the yard.

Ramp It Up!

If you’re installing those wide walkways for a senior or disabled person, you’ll need a ramp to make the home accessible.

This is an opportunity to blend the pathway to the home in a way that allows wheelchair access but is also inviting to all guests.

There are very strict zoning guidelines in most communities that dictate the “rise” of the wheelchair ramp. This is because if the wheelchair ramp is too steep, you risk injuring a disabled person. If it’s not steep enough, it’s very long and can become unstable.

This is a consideration which should only be undertaken by a qualified landscape pro!


Spending time outdoor is very beneficial for senior citizens and disabled people. Just as you and I relish feeling the sun on our face on a warm spring day, so do they!

It’s natural to want to spruce up the yard with plantings around your hardscapes. Instead, choose  a selection of low-maintenance plants that don’t require a lot of water and can even withstand a little neglect. Use landscaping fabric and thick mulch to minimize the need to weed the beds.


There is no reason that you can’t have an outdoor area that’s both gorgeous and safe. You can enjoy both the view, and the peace of mind knowing that you’ve created the vision for a safe space for your loved one.


Author Bio: Deborah Tayloe is a freelance writer and a contributor to Home Tip Top. She enjoys DIY projects, gardening, and restoring furniture. Deborah lives in North Carolina with her husband and an energetic toy fox terrier.

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