Rachel Burris6-Minute Read
UPDATED: August 25, 2022
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You may have reached that age where you’re technically classified as a senior citizen, but that doesn’t mean you feel or want to be treated like one. Sure, you want to stay independent and live in your own home – the place where you raised your family and created fond memories – but you don’t want to make your house feel like a hospital. After all, you’re young for your age.
Not to worry, aging in place can be done with style and dignity. You can make your home safer without it making you look feeble. By making these eight home modifications for aging in place, you can get your kids off your back and age with both confidence and grace.
Since you’re starting early, you don’t need to make all your home modifications at once. “Most modifications should focus on the ease of movement within the house. There are some basic projects that help,” says Raf Howery, CEO and founder of Kukun, a home improvement platform.
The beginning stages of your modifications can focus on quick fixes that will go a long way in preventing trips and falls. Declutter each room in your house. Get rid of loose rugs and move any furniture that may be blocking or narrowing your walkways.
You may dread the thought of having to install grab bars in your bathroom, but you shouldn’t. Grab bars are the single most important home modification, and there are ways to make them blend into your decor.
“These bars can prevent slips and falls besides providing extra support. You will need one in the shower and near the toilet,” says Cristina Miguelez, remodeling specialist for Fixr. “To incorporate grab bars into the bathroom design, you can double them as towel rails or even combine them with toilet tissue holders. This way, they’re stylish yet aid in function.”
Glass and ceramic tile are common bathroom flooring choices because they’re attractive, easy to clean and affordable. However, they get extremely slippery when wet, making them exceedingly dangerous. Plus, their hard surfaces can do far more damage to your body if you do fall.
Instead of risking it, choose a slip-resistant flooring option for your bathroom. No-slip materials can be just as aesthetically pleasing as they are safe. Vinyl flooring may be one of the best options as it’s durable, moisture-resistant and soft to the touch. Furthermore, it comes in a variety of designs that look just like natural stone, wood and a number of different kinds of tile.
With its high ledge, a bathtub can be extremely hazardous to get into and out of over time. However, if you’re not wild about the walk-in tub look, you can always opt for a luxurious-looking shower.
Perhaps surprisingly, all of the features you’d need to make your shower safer are sought-after items for high-end walk-in showers. So, kill two birds with one stone by building out a shower seat, installing a hand-held showerhead and removing the shower threshold to make it flush with the rest of the bathroom floor.
According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, just over 1 in 4 adults has arthritis. The debilitating pain it causes can ultimately make the simplest tasks, like opening kitchen cabinets or turning on the faucet, nearly impossible. That’s why it’s best to consider modifications early on.
“We recommend replacing all faucets with no-touch sensor faucets and replacing all circular knobs with handles,” says Daniel Edwards, owner of Handyman Connection of South Shore. “These simple modifications make it easier for those with arthritis to open cabinets, drawers and use the sink without pain.”
The no-touch faucets are an impressive, state-of-the-art addition to any home, and the lever-style handles can be seen as a simple decor change.
Accidents commonly occur at night, whether trying to get through the front door or searching for a light switch in the dark. You can prevent these accidents by increasing your visibility.
While one easy step is to replace incandescent light bulbs with LEDs, Miguelez says, “Installing movement sensor lights for safer navigation when entering the home is another possible modification. These can be installed throughout the home, so the lights turn on automatically whenever they enter the room.”
This modification is yet another that can be viewed as a high-tech upgrade to the home. It just so happens that you’ll be a lot safer because of it.
Stairs can pose a major fall hazard in the home,” says Amie Clark, co-founder and senior editor of The Senior List. “A few easy ways to improve stairs is to remove loose rugs or floor coverings on and at the bottom and top of the stairs. It's important that stairs are well lit, so adding night lights or motion-sensor lights to stairs is important to improve visibility.
As mobility becomes more of an issue, it will be crucial to continue making modifications, like adding or extending railings on both sides of the staircase. If you have the space, the most affordable option is to relocate your primary bedroom and bathroom to the first floor of your home. Main-floor bedroom suites have actually become a popular home trend over the last few years, so much so that they may slightly increase home value.
Reaching for items on high shelves, contending with low visibility and struggling to find items within your closet can actually cause accidents. However, by making minor changes to your closet, you can eliminate potential hazards – and maybe even make it look more organized.
“Adding motion lights, lowering shelves and clearing out clutter are all easy improvements to the closet area,” says Clark. “If closet space is limited, storing out-of-season items elsewhere to keep the closet free of clutter may be helpful.”
Are your kids already pestering you to make a change in your lifestyle? You may be wondering how you can convince them that aging in place is the right option for you. Take a look at the following three tips to help you reason with them.
While you may feel it’s too early to start thinking about aging in place, it’s always best to start making modifications before you need them. To figure out what exactly you’ll need in the coming years, begin the process by consulting an expert.
“One of the easiest ways to determine what may be needed in an individual home is to request an in-home safety evaluation order from your physician,” says Clark. “This evaluation is covered by Medicare Part B and is completed by a Home Health senior-care professional who visits your home and makes recommendations based on what they see.”
If you prefer, you can also hire a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), who can recommend remodeling projects that will increase the safety of your home.
While maintaining your independence is no doubt reason enough for you to age in place, your family may be more persuaded by the fact that it’s actually cheaper to modify your home than it is to pay for assisted living. Once you’ve received a consultation and estimate, compare the cost to that of an alternative living arrangement.
“The average cost of assisted living is somewhere around $4,000 per month, or $48,000 a year,” says Cindy Moore, managing member of Senioridy, an online directory that helps connect seniors to living facilities and services. “A long-term skilled nursing facility (nursing home) can cost twice that.”
The bathroom tends to be the room where most serious accidents happen, whether it’s falling in the tub, slipping on a wet, slick floor or misgauging the height of the toilet. The bathroom modifications listed above can prevent each of these possibilities. That’s why it’s useful to turn your attention to bathroom projects as soon as you’ve completed minor ones.
While falls can happen to anyone at any age, the resulting injuries get far more serious as you get older. If you want to age in place with confidence, it’s best that you start to make home modifications before your age catches up with you. Start these projects now, and your kids will feel far more comfortable with your decision.
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