5 home renovations for aging in place

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In retirement, housing options are many and varied. The choices include downsizing to a smaller home or another part of country; moving overseas; assisted living facilities; a retirement village or cohousing; and home sharing.

Many retirees are choosing to remain in their own homes. This means home renovation has become a big business. If you are looking to stay in your home through retirement, or expecting a parent or relative to move in, here are some renovations to consider.

The number of people over 65 is expected to double in the next quarter century. As the population ages, the needs for healthcare and assisted living will expand dramatically. Each family and individual will find their own way to address these needs.

Although many retirees consider moving in retirement, relatively few actually do. According to the AARP, almost 90 percent of seniors prefer to stay in their own homes for the remainder of their lives.

Home renovation has become a huge industry. The home construction and remodeling business has had a rise in the number of people who want to modify their homes to be more senior-friendly. Many are retirees who are preparing for their needs later in life. Some are grown children with aging parents who want their homes to be more maneuverable for their loved ones. According to AARP, 54 percent of adult children think that their parents will need such help.

Regardless of whether you’re a senior choosing to “age in place” in your home, or a homeowner preparing for an aging parent or relative to live with you, there are some areas of a home that are typically need modifications.

Bathrooms

Bathrooms are most often the places that need changes. Fortunately, these are also the places that are easiest and least expensive to modify. The most common upgrades are relatively simple, like racks and grab bars in the shower, lighted and magnifying make-up mirrors, and raised-height toilets (so users don’t have to bend down as far).

For those with mobility issues, no-threshold showers, which have entrances that are even with the floor, are a popular option. Hand-held showerheads and benches in showers are also convenient for many people.

Moving or modifying rooms

Going up and down one or more flights of stairs can be problematic for many seniors. Moving the master or guest bedroom from the second floor down to the first floor, or moving a laundry room from the basement to the first floor can alleviate these concerns.

Stairways

Stairs are themselves frequently a problem for seniors and others with a little difficulty getting around. These are the areas that nearly always require some types of modification. Some ideas include adding a stair glide, building a ramp, installing an elevator, or even redesigning the home so that commonly used rooms are on the ground floor. Installing an elevator or stair glide is often less expensive than moving one or more rooms between floors.

Widening kitchen spaces and doorways

Seniors who use wheelchairs or walkers often have difficulty navigating through the home. Many modern homes already have accommodations for this. If not, a building contractor may need to move or take down walls to expand doorways and create space in the kitchen and other areas.

Another common kitchen modification is lowering cabinets and countertops so that someone can prepare food and cook while seated.

Outside Entryways

Like the pathways inside the home, the stairs and walkways leading up to the home may need to be upgraded for some residents who need to go in and out on a regular basis. Sometimes this involves widening doorways, adding a wheelchair ramp, or installing a railing to an outdoor stairway. In other cases, it may be as simple as moving things around in the garage so that someone has extra room to get in and out of a car.

Paths leading to the exterior doors may need to be smooth and free of tripping hazards. They might also need cover against the weather.

Here are some smaller home modifications that are commonly made:

  • Replacing doorknobs with levers. Levers are easier for people to grasp and operate.
  • Installing extra lighting in living areas for people with vision impairments. Task lighting and roof lights to let in sunlight are popular options.
  • Moving light switches closer to the floor
  • Removing carpeting and doorway thresholds to eliminate tripping hazards
  • Installing low-height washers, dryers, stoves, and other appliances

As home renovations for seniors become more popular, technology will have an increasing role. Watch this short video for some innovations currently under research.

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