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Aging in place is more popular than ever. A recent survey from Capital Caring Health reveals that 90% of older adults want to remain in their homes and it isn’t only the high cost of assisted living driving their preferences. Those in their golden years are more active than ever, preferring to maintain independence.
However, physical reality dictates taking extra precautions to prevent injuries that could require pricy, ongoing care. What can you do to modify your home for yourself or an older relative you love? Here are six aging-in-place remodeling ideas for a safer living space.
1. Allowing Entry Access
Does your home sit atop a steep driveway? If so, an automatic garage door opener is a must. Why? You might not always have the ability to climb the hill while carrying groceries, especially once winter weather turns your asphalt into an ice skating rink.
It’s also vital to ensure all stairs leading to entryways have sufficient hand support. If your front walkway consists of nothing but concrete steps, it’s time to install railings.
Another wise investment if you live north of the Mason-Dixon line: nonslip snow mats. These devices melt the snow from your front stairs, no shoveling required.
Finally, you may wish to widen your front door frame. It should be at least 36 inches wide per ADA standards to allow wheelchair access. Of course, you may also need to install a ramp if that day comes.
2. Preventing Slip-and-Falls
Over half of all falls occur in the home and they can rob you of your independence. A shattered hip can take months or longer to heal, even with intensive physical therapy.
The bathroom is the number one location for falls. You may need to do some work on your walls first, installing 2 x 8 blocks between your studs to provide an appropriate mounting surface. These devices need to be sturdy enough to support considerable weight. Use flanges and lag bolts to secure the bar itself to your reinforced wall. You should install a grab bar near the toilet and within the shower enclosure.
Bathtub lips provide another tripping hazard. Consider removing your soaking tub and replacing it with a walk-in shower stall. Another option is a walk-in tub. Pro-tip: check with your insurance company if you have a supplemental Medicare policy, as some will cover this amenity.
3. Preparing for Mobility Devices
Have you ever tried pushing a walker across a shag carpet? If you have, you know it presents an interesting challenge — not one you need to hassle with when you have mobility challenges.
Consider ripping up thick-pile carpets and replacing them with Pergo or hardwood. Tile is another option, but it’s hard and unforgiving if you fall. A quality laminate is another option and you can find it in colors and styles suitable for any decor.
Now is the time if you didn’t clear the clutter during one of the pandemic shutdown cleaning binges. Anything that takes up excess floor space provides a tripping hazard. Ensure you have adequate space between furnishings to maneuver with a mobility device.
4. Easing the Arthritis Burden
Standard doorknobs present issues when arthritis flares up, making it impossible to twist. Consider replacing traditional knobs with handled versions that you can simply push, even using your elbows when necessary.
However, hardware could make your kitchen cabinetry more accessible while enhancing the look of your cooking space. Look for wide farm-style handles that let you get a grip instead of having to pry.
Fan and blind pulls might seem like minor details, but the right models can also make a comfort difference. Look for those with a sizable ball or other attachment at the end to make it easier to maneuver.
5. Creating Sight for Sore Eyes
Your visual acuity tends to fade with age. You might need to brighten things up, but the solution isn’t the brightest incandescent or overhead fluorescent you can find. LED bulbs use up to 90% less energy and last 25 times longer than traditional models. Plus, you can find them in various colors, helping you set the mood you want in your home.
Natural light is best for helping regulate your circadian rhythms. Many older adults develop sleep difficulties and exposure to sunlight tells you when to wake and rest. Take down heavy blackout curtains, replacing them with gauzy models that let the light stream through. Another option is one-way window film, which also protects your floors and furnishings from damaging UV radiation.
6. Providing Automated Conveniences
Humanity hasn’t quite advanced to “The Jetsons” age yet — but we’re getting closer. Thanks to digital assistants like Google Home, you can see who’s ringing the doorbell without leaving the comfort of your recliner.
Take advantage of smart home devices to automate as much as possible. You might think it seems frivolous to be able to turn on a lamp without moving from your chair. However, your future self will thank you when your muscles ache with the flu and you don’t have to risk a perilous journey to adjust the thermostat or check that you locked the front door for the night.
Aging-in-Place Remodeling Ideas
More adults want to age in place than ever before. It’s more than wanting to save money on assisted living care — it’s a means of maintaining independence.
However, you want to protect your safety and those you love. Consider the above six aging-in-place remodeling ideas before moving in an older relative or preparing your home for your sunset years.