Six Home Modifications That Can Help You Age In Place
Eighty percent of older Americans plan to age in their own homes, making some remodeling necessary to keep homes safe and accessible. While home modifications can add comfort and convenience, they can come at a high cost and be a stressful endeavor. Even worse — some changes may not be good investments or even wrong for your situation. Here are six basic things to consider about remodeling your home:
- Think long-term — aging is a progression: Modifications that serve you well over the next two years might not be sufficient three years from now. Check your local senior center, or agency on aging, for referrals to design experts or programs that can help you assess your home and determine what’s needed. Senior fairs and home shows that cater to the needs of the over 60 – set are a good place to learn about design trends, technologies and aids that can be included as part of your home modification plan.
- One-floor living: Most experts on home modification agree that one floor level is the optimal choice. Yet one of the most common pieces of equipment for aging-in-place is the stair glide — a simple chair lift that runs straight up and down your stairs. While it can help some people, stair glides have draw – backs depending on your health conditions, and cost from $3,000 to $12,000 to purchase and have installed. If you use a walker or wheel chair, you may still need help getting into, or out of, the stair glide. This is one modification that can wind up idle if it doesn’t help the way you hoped.
- Widen the doors: Walkers and motorized wheel chairs, even new robotic technology, promise to allow more people to age in place, but altering doorways can be difficult. The number of doors, hidden wiring, mechanical systems, and how the structural load of floors and roofs in the upper stories would be affected can impact your project and costs.
- Install ramps and indoor thresholds: Outdoor ramps can help you avoid steps up to porches or entryways. But installing mini-ramps indoors is important too. Floors that vary in level between rooms become a challenge not only for people who use wheel chairs and walkers, but also those who navigate wearing bifocals. Threshold ramps provide a smooth transition from one area to the next, making it safer to get around your home.
- Get things within reach in the kitchen and bathroom: Countertops and cabinets can be too high or too wide if you are in a wheel chair. You may need to lower the counters and the sink. Microwaves may be better located on a stand rather than a raised cabinet. Roll out storage in under-counter cabinets can help you more quickly locate items without having to stoop or get down on your hands and knees.
- Focus on safe entry and exits for bathing: A walk-in shower with a bench to sit on could be a safer choice than a traditional bathtub. If the expense is more than the budget allows, a less expensive choice is to add safety bars or purchase a bathtub transfer bench or chair that allows you to sit while you lift legs one at a time over the bathtub sides.
- Get rid of flooring that slips or trips: Shaggy older carpet, and throw rugs can be difficult to vacuum and often dangerous to maneuver. New carpeting with shorter nap is a better choice for use of walker and wheel chairs. Hardwood, tile, vinyl and laminate flooring are easy to clean but can be more slippery. When throw rugs are used, they need to be firmly secured to the floor to prevent trips and falls.