A safe home is the number one requirement for aging-in-place. Without a home that’s adapted to your needs, you’re one slip and fall away from moving to an assisted living facility. Before you start calling up contractors to remodel your house, this is what you need to consider when creating an aging-friendly home.
Remodeling for Accessibility
Remodeling in your senior years requires a different approach. No longer are aesthetics the focus; instead, it’s all about creating a home that’s safe, comfortable, and easy to live in. However, by planning ahead instead of waiting until your health demands it, you can incorporate accessibility features that are as stylish as they are functional. Here are some aging-in-place projects to put on your list:
- Constructing a ramp: Entry stairs pose a significant fall risk, especially when carrying items into the house. Ensure you can enter and exit your home safely by creating at least one step-free entrance. If your current entrances all have stairs, that means building a ramp to guide you indoors.
- Installing grab bars: Falls in the bathroom cause serious injuries. According to Today’s Caregiver, 30 percent of seniors injured in a bathroom fall fracture a bone. While grab bars aren’t known for their beauty, they’re an important component of bathroom safety. Install grab bars at the shower and toilet, and opt for designs that double as towel racks, toilet paper holders, and other bathroom mainstays to avoid an institutional feel.
- Replacing flooring: In your senior years, you want flooring that’s both slip-resistant and soft underfoot. Replace tile in the kitchen with cork, wood, or linoleum, add slip-resistant vinyl in the bathroom, and swap shaggy carpet with a low-pile alternative.
- Adding lighting: Age-related vision changes make it difficult to see in dimly-lit spaces. Installing brighter overhead lighting and adding task lighting in busy areas compensates for poor vision so you can navigate your home safely.
Unless you’re heading to a vacation home for half the year, it’s not practical to tackle all these home modifications at once. Remodeling will leave portions of your home unusable for weeks at a time, so it’s important to schedule projects carefully if you plan to live in your home through the remodeling.
Schedule remodeling projects to limit the intrusion on your daily life. That means no kitchen remodeling around the holidays and only doing one bathroom at a time. It also means spacing projects out so if one takes longer than expected, it doesn’t interfere with the start of the next project. Time off between remodeling projects also gives you breaks so you don’t go crazy waking up to construction sounds every day.
Research different projects to discover estimated time to completion, then decide when you’d like the project to occur. Perhaps you’ll schedule the kitchen during summer when you can grill on the patio, or the bathroom in spring after your holiday guests are gone. Keep projects on schedule by knowing exactly what you want before hiring a contractor. According to Consumer Reports, homeowners’ changing their minds is the biggest reason renovations take longer than expected.
Buying a New Home
Sometimes, remodeling your home for accessibility isn’t financially feasible. If your house would need extensive updates, especially if it requires costly additions like home elevators, you may be better off purchasing a new home. The median listing price for a home in Orem, UT, is $348,000, including accessible homes. However, seniors searching for smaller homes can save money without compromising style and comfort. To maximize your options, expand your search to include apartments and townhomes in addition to single-family residences. Many older adults discover they love living in multi-family buildings because of the proximity to neighbors, public transportation, and local amenities. No matter what type of home you’re looking for, review the local listings to get a feel for what’s available and how much it costs.
The decision to remodel your home or purchase a downsized dwelling is a highly personal one. However, you shouldn’t let emotions get in the way of safety. By making the choice that maximizes your safety at home, you make it possible to stay independent as you age.
Contributed by Lydia Chan. Lydia is the co-creator of Alzheimerscaregiver.net, a website that aims to provide tips and resources to help caregivers. Her mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Lydia found herself struggling to balance the responsibilities of caregiving and her own life. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge and experiences with caregivers and seniors. In her spare time, Lydia finds joy in writing articles about a range of caregiving topics.