A majority of seniors want to age in place, but few make a plan for how they’re going to make home the right place the live out their golden years. In addition to the many products and services that can make aging in place easier, there are also lots of senior-friendly remodeling projects that can make your home safe and accessible.
But remodeling for seniors doesn’t have to mean that you have to turn your home into an assisted living facility, either. The National Association of Home Builders offers a checklist of aesthetically pleasing designs you can incorporate into your senior-friendly remodeling projects.
When to Start Senior-friendly Remodeling
For the best outcomes, it helps to start senior-friendly remodeling projects long before you need them. Although aging in place takes place during your golden years, planning to age in place should take place while you’re easily able to make repairs, renovations and improvements to your home.
Even if there’s a chance you’ll downsize or move to be closer to family, consider remodeling for seniors an investment others will appreciate, too. Because the number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to grow to over 98 million by 2060, homes where aging-in-place issues have been addressed will be an increasingly important factor in home sales.
If you’re a family caregiver helping your aging loved one to embark on senior-friendly remodeling projects, remember that the key element in aging in place is independence, so focus on making adaptations that suit the wants and needs of your senior.
Where to Focus Aging-in-place Adaptations
No matter what room you’re in, the focus of the senior-friendly adaptations will most likely fall into one of four categories: mobility, railings and grips, hand-friendly handles and control knobs, and safety and security.
First, you need to be able to get around your home and interact with your environment. Ideally, your main living spaces, including a full bath, are on a single story. Wide hallways and doorways can also help you get around in your home easier. Some in-home mobility ideas for aging in place include:
- Accessible path of travel to the home
- One entrance to the main living level accessible without going up or down steps
- Clear/turn spaces that are 5-foot-by-5-foot in living area, kitchen, a bedroom and a bathroom
- Smooth, non-glare, slip-resistant surfaces, interior and exterior
Railing and Grips
Typically, your bathroom will be the first room where you focus your aging-in-place remodel. If you don’t already have a first-floor full bathroom, consider remodeling to add an additional bathroom or install a chair lift or elevator for easy access to other levels.
Then, install railings and grips around the toilet and the tub or shower. These ensure that you have plenty of support, as falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for older Americans. Some senior-friendly remodeling ideas for the bathroom include:
- At least one wheelchair-maneuverable bath on the main level with 60-inch turning radius or acceptable T-turn space and 36-inch-by-36-inch or 30-inch-by-48-inch clear space
- Bracing in walls around tub, shower, shower seat and toilet for installation of grab bars to support 250 to 300 pounds
- Fold down seat in the shower
- Adjustable or handheld showerheads, 6-foot hose
- Toilet 2 1/2 inches higher than standard toilet (17 to 19 inches) or height-adjustable
- Slip-resistant flooring in bathroom and shower
Hand-friendly Handles and Control Knobs
Weak or arthritic hands can make it nearly impossible to twist knob kitchen or bathroom faucets or open cabinets or drawers. You can go room by room to determine where you might benefit from hand-friendly handles and control knobs. Here are some common modifications that are helpful:
- Lever handles or pedal-controlled faucets
- Pull-down shelving
- Front-loading laundry machines
- Raised dishwasher with push-button controls
- Electric cooktop with level burners for safety in transferring between the burners, front controls and downdraft feature to pull heat away from user, and light to indicate when surface is hot
- Loop handles for easy grip and pull
- Pull-out spray faucet, levered handles
Safety and Security
Grab bars and non-slip floor mats will make your home safe but only if you can see them. Making sure your home is well-lit, both inside and out, will be crucial to your safety and security as you age. Additionally, high-tech security or intercom system can provide a safe and convenient way to communicate with others when it’s difficult to get around. Some electrical, lighting, safety and security modifications include:
- Light switches by each entrance to halls and rooms
- Rocker or touch light switches
- Audible and visual strobe light system to indicate when the doorbell, telephone, or smoke or CO2 detectors have been activated
- Direct wired to police, fire and EMS
- Home wired for security
Work with a Certified Aging-in-place Specialist
Not everyone has the same aging-in-place issues. Consult the National Association of Home Builders checklist, but consult with a certified aging-in-place specialist for more senior-friendly remodeling ideas to adapt your home for you.