Most people would prefer to grow old while staying comfortable and independent in their own homes to 'age in place'. However, many people wind up selling their homes and moving into some form of assisted living often despite their wishes. One reason for this is that modern American homes are rarely designed with seniors in mind.
National Aging in Place Council
As people age, even navigating stairs or getting into a bathtub can be a dangerous experience. Without special adjustments to accommodate changing needs, familiar and comfortable homes can become death traps.
However, it's possible to make your home safer and increase the chances you'll be able to age in place. Aging in place remodeling projects have become big business and could be a good idea for your home. Here are a few things to think about.
Choosing the Right Contractor
Not all contractors have experience in remodeling a home to make it safer for seniors. Ask your local hospital, health care agency or friends who have undergone similar remodeling efforts or go online to find a contractor with specific experience in this senior home safety modifications.
Find small things you can do to make your home safer. While a more extensive remodeling project is definitely important to consider, there are several things you can do at no or very little cost, without hiring a contractor.
Here are a few home modification ideas for making a senior home safer:
For the exterior. Make sure you have a low-maintenance yard that doesn't require a lot of physical work to keep up.
For the interior floor plan.
Everything you need should be on the first floor of the
house including bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen. If you intend to
stay in the home, it could be worth it to convert one or more
first-floor rooms so you have everything you need on one floor.
For the hallways.
hallways should be at least 36 inches wide so you can accommodate a
wheelchair, power chair, or walker if needed even if you don't use
one now. In addition, hallways should all have nightlights so you
can move around easily at night without having to reach for a light
For the kitchen.
Keep all your necessary items on lower shelves so you don't have to reach or use a step stool, and avoid putting anything important in lower drawers so you don't have to bend down. Be sure that your appliances are at the height of your counters so you don't have to bend down, and that the controls are easily accessible and easy to read. The kitchen should be well lit, with individual lights to illuminate specific tasks.
For the bathroom.
Handrails at the toilet are essential for easy raising and lowering; it can also be helpful to install a high toilet, about two and a half inches higher than the usual toilet height. Replace your bathtub shower with a shower that does not have a threshold; handrails around the shower and a fold-down seat inside the shower for washing can be helpful too. Non-slip flooring is also important; avoid raised bath mats that might cause someone to trip. As in the kitchen, lighting is important in the bathroom; be sure all areas are brightly lit for specific tasks.
Hiring an Aging in Place Specialist
Aging in place specialists are people who consult with construction companies and homeowners in remodeling homes for the needs of older adults. Some contractor's work with people certified in aging in place design and remodeling; AARP, the National Association of Home Builders and Home Innovation Research Labs offer a Certified Aging in Place Specialist credential for experts in the field. If you are considering making adjustments to your home, ask your construction company if they work with a certified aging-in-place specialist. Find a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS).
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