How to Make the Right Home Modifications for Aging in Place
Thanks to Michael Longsdon for providing this Guest BLOG POST
According to the AARP, only 1 percent of homes in the country are conducive to aging in place. If you or a loved one have chosen to stay in one home throughout your golden years, it’s important that the house is designed or renovated to ensure the comfort and safety of all its occupants. When renovating a home to accommodate older adults, there are contractors available who are specifically trained to do this type of home remodeling. These contractors are known as Certified Aging in Place Specialists, or CAPS. Whether using CAPS or not, you can follow these modification tips to implement all the proper renovations needed.
If possible, choose a one-level home rather than a multi-story abode. The fewer steps and stairs for seniors, the better. If your home has more than one level, move all the essential rooms to the main floor — kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom. When needing to go up or down stairs, a stair-lift chair can be a useful accommodation.
Doors and Doorways
Widening halls and doorways is essential for accessibility. However, you should also consider switching out traditional doors for pocket doors. Swinging doors often get in the way, and the hinges can catch on wheelchairs. Pocket doors allow for maximum free space going in and out of rooms. Round doorknobs should be replaced with levers, which are easier to use as they don’t require a twisting motion. Traditional light switches can also be changed out to the slider variety and lowered so they can be reached from a wheelchair.
Balance can be tricky for older adults. About one-third of seniors over age 65 fall each year, and 60 percent of these falls occur within the home. The ideal flooring material should be soft and slip-resistant. Consider non-slip vinyl or rubber floors, as rubber is naturally slip resistant, fire resistant, and soft enough that bones won’t break easily in the case of falls. Another advantage of rubber flooring is that it’s very easy to clean and maintain. Whatever type of flooring you choose, eliminate area rugs and damaged carpets, which, according to the Journal of Injury and Violence Research, are a common cause of slips and trips.
Effective lighting is one of the most important features in a senior’s home. Due to deteriorating eyesight with age, there must be strong illumination throughout the home, especially in stairwells, places where flooring changes, and other areas with increased risk of slips and falls. Also, switch traditional light bulbs to LEDs, which last 50 times longer than a typical incandescent bulb and eight to 10 times longer than CFLs. The longer the bulbs last, the less often seniors will have to change them, which can be difficult and sometimes dangerous.
The bathroom may be the room that needs the most modifications to make it safe for aging adults. In addition to the aforementioned doorways and flooring, it’s also imperative to add handrails or safety bars in and right outside the shower, as well as near the toilet. Lowering the vanity is also a good idea for wheelchair accessibility. Finally, consider a walk-in shower or walk-in tub, as well as a bathtub transfer bench and other bathroom modifications.
Stoves with flat burners are often easier and safer for seniors to use. Older adults also may consider raising stoves and dishwashers to require less bending. However, if someone in the home is wheelchair-bound, lower the appliance instead. Flooring that is more forgiving is easier on the joints when standing for long periods in the kitchen; as mentioned, vinyl is a great option instead of tile or hardwood. Cork is also easier on the back, hips, and knees.
Many older adults across the country are choosing to age in place, rather than move to assisted living or other such facilities. Even if you are in superlative health currently, consider potential limitations that can come about as you age. Simple remodeling choices made now can have a significant impact on how long you can comfortably live in your home in the future.
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