7 Home Modifications to Help You Age in Place
What should you, a senior, do if you feel too autonomous to transition to a retirement community but are still hampered by increasingly difficult daily tasks? If it seems that moving around the house becomes a challenge and a safety risk, hear us out. There are simple and affordable home modifications to help you age in place.
Quality of life comes first
An older woman washing vegetables after applying some of the home modifications to help you age in place.
Feeling comfortable and safe in your home doesn’t have an alternative regardless of age. However, home elements that make us feel secure and cozy will change over time. What would seniors benefit from the most?
- Smart home features
- Bathroom modifications
- Lifts and ramps
- Assistive seating
- Non-slippery flooring
- Kitchen alterations
- Medical alert system
If, for any reason, you can’t install any of the needed features, there is another option. In this scenario, you can sell your current house and buy a home that already has them. The best part of this solution is being able to choose a more senior-friendly neighborhood with amenities you will enjoy as you age. Besides, downsizing is always appreciated by those on a fixed budget.
As neither home is the same nor every senior has the same requirements, it is vital to focus on the features you need and plan to use. Only then will you make your home as uncluttered, functional, and comfortable as possible.
Never too old to live in a smart home
Smart home features may seem confusing to the elderly, but this tech is quite simple to use and can be their best ally. Some of the most useful applications are seen in voice-controlled devices, automated lighting and climate control, and devices providing essential reminders. Also, smart security systems with video monitoring bring a sense of safety, especially to owners of detached homes.
Sensors are among home modifications to help you age in place that are also easy to install and make everyday life more manageable. Motion-detector lighting will not only improve your safety at home but, in combination with LED bulbs, will help you save on electricity bills. Never again will you have to search the wall for a light switch or get up sleepy because you forgot to turn off the lights.
When it comes to the room that, besides the kitchen, gets the most foot traffic, improvements made in a bathroom can save your life. Strategically placed handrails, traction strips on the floor, and a bathtub transfer bench are only a few of the helpful and affordable features. Other changes include replacing the standard bathtub with a walk-in shower with a non-skid strip and safety bars for additional support.
Regarding bathroom fixtures, no-touch faucets are practical for the elderly with arthritis or weaker grip. They require less frequent cleaning, save water, and might come with an option to adjust the temperature. Nonetheless, it is wise to reduce the maximum temperature on the water heater to 120 degrees F and avoid the risk of scalding altogether.
Lifts and ramps
Depending on the ability level, the elderly intent on aging in place might need assistance from handrails, lift chairs (stairlifts), or wheelchair ramps. Regardless of the mobility aid you use, you will benefit from widening your doors or passages or simply removing excess furniture. Ask a family member to declutter your storage and make more room in your unit for a couple of bulky furniture pieces you don’t need.
Keep in mind if you opt for one of these home modifications to help you age in place, you need to make room for their proper use. If even with a special grant or loan you can’t make these home alterations, consider rearranging your essential rooms and moving downstairs to the ground floor.
Assistive seating and Hoyer lifts are mechanical devices helping the elderly and patients easily sit from a lying position or move from one place to another, for example, from bed to a wheelchair. Although they might require a caregiver to operate, they are still excellent devices that make everyday life more enjoyable.
The right kind of flooring
The right kind of flooring for the elderly aging in place helps them keep balance easily, is soft enough, and easy to clean. Additionally, flooring should have good thermal insulation properties and be fire resistant if possible. True, it is difficult to find one type of flooring that satisfies all demands as each has its pros and cons.
Vinyl flooring is the easiest to clean and maintain, but it is hard and cold. A pair of slippers with rubber soles should fix that issue. Although it is not easy to clean, wall-to-wall carpeting is a good, soft, non-slippery solution. A solution may lie in carpet tiles that can be easily replaced if necessary. The elderly with asthma or other respiratory issues should avoid carpeting entirely. Although expensive, rubber floors are fire and slip-resistant, and soft to walk on. Those sensitive to odors may not find rubber floors particularly appealing.
A kitchen to enjoy in
A truly functional kitchen for an elderly living alone includes easy access to cabinetry, appliances, and fixtures, a non-slippery floor, and optimal lighting. Helpful and simple fixes to cabinetry may consist of installing soft close and touch-to-open hinges. Small appliances should be lowered to a height below eye level. If upper cabinets are necessary, they should be moved at least three inches lower, as reaching above shoulders can be challenging for some seniors.
Apart from sensor lighting, natural light is most welcome in a kitchen. Removing heavy curtains and installing lever window handles will help the poor-sighted and the elderly with arthritis. Additionally, seniors with a disability should consider hiring a contractor to lower the cabinetry and the sink to a more appropriate, practical level.
Medical alert system
If you live alone and have health issues, a personal emergency response system is one of those gadgets that don’t require home modifications to help you age in place but help you feel safe night and day. The simplest ones consist of a portable help button connected to a landline through a base unit. Mobile medical alert systems are a bit more sophisticated as they also serve as a hands-free speakerphone allowing a conversation with a response center. What better way to live a safe but active life in your golden years?