Aging in place, or growing old at home, is something we all desire. However, as your body ages, you will be faced with many challenges, so it’s best to prepare early on. Upgrading your home for old age, whether it’s for yourself or family members, may take time and money.
Fortunately, if you know what to improve, you can spread out the costs, so that your home is safe and comfortable. Here’s what you need to consider when thinking about home improvements for the elderly.
Replace slippery flooring
Making sure that your floors are slip-proof applies to all age groups, from children, to elderly, so this should go to the top of your list. If your home has floors made out of linoleum or vinyl, consider replacing them with hardwood floors, or even softwood, like cork or bamboo. Now is also a good time to remove doorway thresholds and saddles, to improve accessibility, as well as get rid of potential tripping hazards. A cheap and easy way to improve the grip of your floors is by adding carpets. However, thick, fluffy ones will make it difficult to get around in a wheelchair, so consider very low pile carpets instead.
Swap round doorknobs with levers
Lever-style doorknobs are easier to use than round ones, especially if you have your hands full. In your old age, you will find them even more user-friendly because they don’t require a twisting hand motion to open.
Lower countertops and cabinets
You will inevitably lose height as you get older, and since the standard height for countertops is 34 1/2 inches, you might find it difficult to work in a kitchen. Lowering the countertop by just 4 inches will help improve your access, especially if you rely on a wheelchair. You might also want to reduce the height of cabinets as well or place your essentials on the lower shelves.
Raise power sockets
Most electricians install sockets around 12-18 inches from the floor, and your knees and back will argue with that height when you’re old. Raising the sockets to 24 inches or higher will make a world of difference.
Install a walk-in shower
Slipping in the bathtub can lead to injuries when you’re young and fit, let alone when you’re older. Therefore, it might be best to replace the bathtub, and even enclosed showers, with walk-in ones. They are not only easier to access, given the fact that you can adjust the width of the doors, but also because there’s nothing to step over or climb into. You can easily fit a stool in there, and they will require less cleaning and maintenance.
Install grab bars
If your bathroom does not have enough space for a walk-in shower, an easy solution is installing grab bars. The best thing about them is that you don’t need to limit them to the bathroom. Wooden versions are very stylish and will not only look great along the walls and stairs but will also make getting around the house easier.
Add a wheelchair ramp
You might think that you won’t need a wheelchair in your old age, and here’s to hoping you’re right. However, a wheelchair ramp can come in handy, as the tilted surface will be easier to climb than the stairs, even if it’s just a couple of steps, and it will also make it easier to move around if you use a walking frame. You can also build a cement ramp leading up to your front door, which might be cheaper; however, it’s best to bear in mind that it will not have the same functionality as a professionally installed wheelchair ramp.
Doors that are 32 inches wide or narrower will create difficulties if you rely on a wheelchair or a mobility device. Therefore, it’s best to talk to a contractor early on about widening them, as it’s the type of job that will cost both time and money.
Install a chair lift
If your house has stairs, you may wish to think about installing a chair lift, so that you can have safe access to the upper levels of your home. The installation can be done in several hours, and while DIY versions are available, it’s best to let a contractor handle this. If your stairs are too narrow for a chair lift, or if you rely on a wheelchair, another option is to install an elevator.
Consider home automation
Although home automation is mostly associated with the young and tech-savvy, it could, in fact, have more benefits for the elderly. Remote-controlled blinds, lights, and appliances will help if you’re not too mobile, while in-home monitoring services will give you peace of mind by improving security, as well as alerting your family should anything happen to you.