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Important Home Upgrades for Aging in Place

Important Home Upgrades for Aging in Place

Choosing to grow older in your current home isn’t just about wanting to remain there — it’s also important to adapt the space for safety and ease of use.

If you or someone you care for has opted to stay in the same home while aging, you’re probably confronted with a long checklist of modifications to make it happen. Although it can feel daunting, especially when juggling health or financial worries, retrofitting a home for this purpose is less complex than it appears. The effort is well worth it, not only because many people are more comfortable at home, but also due to the cost-saving advantages. In addition to personal preferences, the financial aspect of investing in home adjustments shouldn’t be overlooked.

As we age, everyday activities like getting out of bed, climbing stairs, or reaching high shelves become more challenging. The concept of aging in place often involves tailoring your home to accommodate new requirements related to mobility, safety, and health, instead of relocating to a new residence or a care facility. This approach allows you to stay connected with your community and friends for a longer period, and it’s usually more budget-friendly compared to moving into an assisted living facility.

Fortunately, there are established guidelines on how to prioritize these home modifications, starting with the areas most susceptible to accidents. In this context, we offer advice on which tasks should take precedence for safety as you work through your list of modifications for aging at home.

Begin With the Bathroom

Bathrooms can be hazardous for older individuals due to the presence of water, which increases the likelihood of slips and falls. Some improvements — like widening doorways for wheelchairs or walkers — may be extensive, but others are relatively straightforward.

A quick and effective measure is to add handrails in the shower or bathtub. Walk-in tubs and showers are another excellent option; they remove the risky step-over edges and often come with built-in seats. Alternatively, you can put in a shower stool to make bathing safer and more comfortable. Also think about incorporating seated vanities, allowing you to sit while using the mirror rather than standing.

Updates for Other Rooms

There are various other enhancements around the house you can make, such as installing ramps in place of steps outdoors and making sure stair railings are sturdy. Relocating your main bedroom to the ground floor can eliminate the necessity for stairs altogether. Added lighting at both ends of stairways is another safety measure that is always beneficial. To further enhance security, ensure that carpets are firmly anchored at the room’s edges, perhaps using double-sided tape. The goal is to make the home as navigable and comfortable as possible.

When it comes to seeing a return on your investment for these changes, the outcome is variable. A good guideline is to make features appealing to the broadest audience possible. Although millennials make up a significant portion of current home buyers and sellers, they might not find features like handrails enticing. However, amenities like pull-out pantries and drop-down shelves are universally useful, irrespective of age.

Bedrooms: This is another space in the house where added precautions can be beneficial. For instance, installing features to facilitate getting in and out of bed can be wise. This could include additional handrails or even opting for a bed at a more accessible height. Anti-slip flooring and ample lighting are also good ideas for safety.

Kitchens: Kitchens are prone to accidents, especially with tile flooring and slick countertops. Many modifications in the kitchen focus on adjusting heights to avoid the need for bending or using a stool. Think about adding features like slide-out pantry shelves, drop-down shelving, and sinks with reduced depth for easier access.

Easy Improvements to Make

Some good news is that many safety improvements around the home don’t require professional help or specialized tools. One easy thing to do is declutter and eliminate items that pose tripping hazards. Begin by securing or removing any rugs or floor coverings that could slide.

Once you’ve addressed the flooring, examine other potential obstacles like floor-standing plants or obstructive side tables. Pay special attention to transitions between rooms and ensure that any steps leading into the house or garage are well-lit and easily navigable.

Although professional help may be needed for major lighting updates, swapping out dim bulbs for brighter ones is an easy change that enhances visibility. Simple additions like night lights in various rooms can also make a significant difference.

Switching out door knobs for lever handles is another improvement that benefits all rooms. Levers are easier to operate and many DIY kits are available for easy installation.

Lastly, smart home technologies can simplify daily life and provide additional security. Consider investing in home security systems that enable family monitoring or smart thermostats that allow temperature adjustments without needing to stand up. These smart devices often have features that let you set up automated routines, providing an extra layer of convenience and safety as you work through your home improvement checklist.

When to Bring in an Expert

If you find it challenging to compile a list of home improvement tasks, consulting a professional is a good starting point. Experts in the field can assess your home and offer guidance on which projects to prioritize.

Many states offer training programs focused on aging in place, and specialized companies exist to assist with this. It’s also advisable to seek input from in-home care specialists and your healthcare providers for a comprehensive approach to your needs.

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