Thanks to increases in technology and the availability of home-based services, more seniors now have the option to live in their homes. Aging in place can help seniors afford daily living, maintain dignity, and live longer, healthier lives. For seniors to continue living at home, however, accessibility modifications are usually necessary. Here are some important modifications to consider and a few ways to facilitate getting these jobs done quickly.
Before deciding what modifications are necessary, a senior looking to age in place should consider their health today and likely condition in the foreseeable future. You may be full of energy and ability right now, but obstacles such as stairs to a second-floor bedroom can become insurmountable with just a small amount of infirmity.
Here are common residential problems and their solutions:
- Second-floor bedrooms or bathrooms. Most two-story homes are designed for sleeping upstairs and living downstairs. As such, bedrooms are usually not located on the first floor. You could turn an unused living room or study into a serviceable bedroom to avoid having to use the stairs, as long as a bathroom with a tub or shower is also on the first floor. Although most single family homes have a bathroom on the first floor, it’s generally a powder room or half bath. If this is the case, you should consider adding a shower to the downstairs bath, even if the stairs cause you little trouble today. Although expensive, stairlifts can help residents navigate staircases as well.
- Narrow doorways. Most residential doorways are not wide enough for wheelchair-bound occupants to clear, at least without banging their knuckles in the process. Widening doorways is an expensive job that can require re-framing several areas throughout a home, along with new doors, hardware, drywall, and finishing. As an alternative, you could widen the doorways with offset hinge extenders.
- Smart home modifications. A smart doorbell with two-way talking capability allows seniors to keep an eye on their front door and allow people to enter without having to get up.
- Stepped entryway. Most homes do not have a completely flush entranceway. Either a step or multiple steps usually separate the outside from the inside. The solution is to add a ramp to at least one entrance.
- Levered door handles. Round doorknobs are difficult to operate for those with arthritis and other joint conditions. Solve this problem by swapping door knobs for levered handles. This is the easiest modification to accomplish, but it can require a considerable investment in hardware depending on how many doors are in your home.
- Other repairs. When you’re doing an accessibility audit, it’s also a good time to assess other repairs that might be needed. For example, if you need plumbing repairs, now is a good time to address any issues so that no further damage is caused to your home. Search for “best plumber near me” and read reviews of contractors so that you know you’re hiring a trusted professional. As you prepare your accessibility home modification budget, be sure to account for these types of repairs.
These are all part of “holistic” home improvement. Rather than simply putting a ramp at the doorway, consider the entire route of someone living in the home. You might find that by doing so, a different solution appears. The aim should be dual: seeking comfort and safety.
Luckily, there are additional resources for those seeking to age in place, and options continue to pop up as its popularity grows. An entire specialization has developed in the construction and home remodeling industry, aimed specifically at accessibility modifications for aging in place. These professionals know the types of modifications that may be necessary now and in the future. Often, these contractors work closely with occupational therapists and senior service providers, so they are experienced in many types of accessibility needs.
Downsizing Is Also an Option
If modifying your home for aging in place is too much work or too costly, there is another option. By downsizing, a senior can find a home that presents fewer obstacles to aging in place. While it may not be possible to find a perfect home, homes that need much less work – such as a single-story house with wide doorways – are on the market. Downsizing into a more affordable home also frees up money for living expenses. Another option is selling your home and moving into assisted living where you’ll receive 24-hour care and help with the activities of daily living.
Aging in place is possible for many seniors. Determining what modifications are necessary is the first step to realizing a dream to live your life on your own terms, independently.
Making major aging-in-place modifications to your home? Beryl Engineering & Inspection can put together a permit plan for your renovations.