If you’re like a growing number of Americans, you would like to stay in your home as long as possible. Aging in place, or choosing to stay in your home as you get older instead of moving to a retirement community, is the preferred option for many older adults. However, staying safe and comfortable in your own home as you grow older can be difficult. By planning ahead, you can make the necessary modifications to ensure your house becomes a lifelong home.
Simple DIY home modifications help maintain your quality of life. These changes are easy to do and can create a world of difference in terms of convenience and safety. Most changes can be completed in a day with supplies from a local hardware store. AARP has a Home Fitness Checklist, which offers multiple solutions and modifications to make your home safe and comfortable as you age. Common modifications to turn your house into a lifelong home include:
Install grab bars for toilets and tubs
Installing permanent grab bars will help you safely move around your bathroom, because getting in and out of the shower can become more difficult with age. Grab bars take pressure off weak knees when rising from the commode, offer support if you simply need something to lean on and can be installed nearly anywhere!
Remove unnecessary throw rugs to prevent accidental tripping and slipping
Unsecured rugs can bunch up or slip, causing a major tripping hazard when walking, especially if you’re using a walker or cane. If you’re adamant about keeping throw rugs for decorative purposes, consider sticking doubled sided tape onto the rugs so they stay in place.
Rearrange furniture to create clear pathways
Organizing your furniture in a way that allows for clear pathways without tight turns can make navigating throughout your house much easier. Creating clear pathways greatly reduces the chance of a fall.
Replace doorknobs with lever door handles
Lever door handles are much easier to open than traditional round doorknobs, especially if you have arthritis or low hand strength. Lever handles are also easier to manage if your hands are full.
Install extra lighting in stairways and other dark areas
Seniors need approximately three times as much light to see properly compared to a young adult. By installing extra lighting throughout your home, you will greatly reduce the chance of accidents, especially in stairways. Automatic night-lights for hallways and bathrooms are a good idea.
Install rocker style light switches
Rocker style, “push”, light switches are easier to operate and use compared to traditional toggle “flip” switches. They are larger and require less effort to use.
Apply non-slip tape to uncarpeted stairs
Uncarpeted stairs pose a serious falling hazard. They are often slippery and can be difficult to navigate. By applying non-slip tape, you can gain better traction and help prevent falls. In addition, make sure your stairways have a railing on each side.
Add a shower safety seat in your bathroom or wheelchair shower platform
A shower safety seat offers stability and a rest place if you have trouble standing for long periods of time. They are affordable and easy to find in most stores. A wheelchair shower platform is an excellent solution if you’re confined to a mobility aid, making it easy and hassle-free to get in and out of the tub.
Place non-skid mats on your bathroom floor and in your shower or tub
Placing a non-skid mat outside the shower and near toilets and sinks can prevent an accidental slip or fall.
Install threshold ramps to easily overcome small rises
Threshold ramps create a no-step entry into your home, significantly reducing tripping hazards and allowing easy access for mobility aids. Beneficial for scooters, wheelchairs and foot traffic, threshold ramps eliminate small steps and rises throughout the interior and exterior of your home.
Consider modular ramps for long term access
To make your entire home walker, wheelchair and scooter accessible, consider investing in a modular ramp system. Modular ramps are a long term mobility solution, eliminating steps for safe and easy access. Typically made out of aluminum, modular ramps are lightweight and can be installed outdoors over virtually any steps or rises.
For more extensive changes, it’s recommended you hire an experienced contractor. Contact the National Association of Home Builders to find a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS). The NAHB is a network of highly trained professionals, making them an excellent resource for valuable remodeling advice, while recommending certified contractors to complete more extensive jobs. The right home contractor can update your home and tackle bigger projects, like remodeling a bathroom, expanding doorways to be at least 36" wide, or installing additional lighting where needed.
One in three Americans is now aged 50 or older, by 2030 one in five people will be over age 65. As the aging population continues to grow, more contractors and home remodeling professionals are recommending mobility-friendly updates. From widening doorways and installing grab bars, to simply adding a lightweight threshold ramp at entryways, maintaining independence in your own home is an accessible reality.