For senior citizens who wish to Age in Place (living in their homes as long as possible), there are many beautiful home modifications that can be done which will not only increase the long-term safety of the home but will also contribute to its value.
It’s important to keep in mind that your mobility will change as you age. If you are planning on staying in your home for 20 years after retirement, your vision, mobility, and health can drastically change from 65 to 85 and it’s important that your home provides comfort and safety throughout that time. Front stairs that you traverse with ease in 2019 can be the site of an injury in 2029. So, while some of these suggestions may not be a high priority today, these modifications can allow you more time in the home that you love, because a trip today can be a fall tomorrow.
In the Kitchen:
ADA-compliant appliances offer features such as front controls on stoves, and dishwashers that offer rack loading from the front. These requirements can help prevent burns, discomfort, and injury and the design can be subtle and sleek.
Large turning radiuses are not only convenient for wheelchair users but help prevent bumps and spills with multiple cooks in the kitchen.
Keeping trash cans in a pull-out drawer in your island or cabinet prevents the trash from being a tripping hazard and is aesthetically pleasing.
In the Bathroom:
Walk-in tiled showers are a beautiful growing trend, even when access isn’t a deciding factor. Grab bars can integrate with the bathroom design, and a shower head with a hand-held spray is useful for anyone. These showers can also comfortably fit shower chairs if the need arises.
In the Bedroom:
Bedrooms should be on the ground floor of a multi-story home where possible.
Your bed should be placed with enough walking room on both sides of the bed, and at an appropriate height to make it easy to get into and out of bed.
Closets should have ample lighting and dressers should be as wide as possible.
Throughout the Home:
Wide doorways, hallways, and open floor plans bring grandeur and sophistication to your home and are accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. Perfect for caretaker grandparents!
Light switches on walls, motion-activated hallway nightlights, and higher electric outlets are convenient for everyone, including guests.
Abundant lighting is key to preventing falls in the home. Big windows and skylights offering natural lighting, as well as accent and recessed lighting are fashionable elements that also increase the safety of the home for seniors.
Lever handles on doors, instead of knob handles offer access with subtlety.
Wiring the Home for Technology
Smart home devices are obviously appealing to young consumers accustomed to technology aids throughout their lives, but offer many benefits for seniors as well.
Consumers can now set their thermostats, see who is at the door and turn off the lights from a phone or tablet. Not having to get out of bed to check that the doors are locked can prevent a nighttime fall. Plus, family members and caretakers can remotely check-in for safety.
Outside the home:
For any doorways that have steps, modular wheelchair ramps or threshold ramps can be placed for safety. It does not take a large step to cause a serious fall.
Garages should offer enough space to comfortably walk around your vehicle, and all clutter should be kept in cabinets.
Lawns should be low-maintenance, and gardens should be within easy reach. More information about accessible gardening can be found here.
While there are many projects you can do yourself, be sure to check that any contractors you work with are Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists who are experienced working with clients who share your accessibility needs.
Thinking ahead to make sure your home is a safe place for your golden years will provide value for you and your home.