Home Improvement Project Ideas for Aging in Place
By the GWAAR Legal Services Team
Are you planning to stay in your home for as long as you can? If so, you’re not alone. According to research by the National Conference of State Legislatures and the AARP Public Policy Institute, nearly 90 percent of people over the age of 65 want to stay in their homes for as long as possible. Unfortunately, most homes are not designed for aging in place. However, there are some remodeling projects that can help people of all ages live more comfortably in their homes.
Consider smart home products like thermostats, lighting, or doorbells. Adjust your home’s temperature, turn the lights on or off, or see who is at your door with the push of a button or with a voice command.
Take steps to prevent falls. Add handrails on both sides of a stairway. If your house has front steps, consider changing your entryway so that there is a sloping walkway rather than steps. An overhang over your main entrance will shield you from rain and snow and reduce your risk of falling on slippery pavement. In addition, pay attention to floor surfaces. Hardwood floors can be slippery, but adding area rugs can create a tripping hazard. On the other hand, carpeting reduces the risk of tripping and can help cushion a fall. However, wheelchairs and walkers might not easily roll over carpet.
Get creative with your home’s layout. Having a bedroom and full bathroom on the first floor means you will not have to climb stairs every day. In addition, if you move the laundry to the main floor, you will not have to carry a laundry basket up and down stairs.
Think about how to make your bathroom accessible to people of all ages, heights, and mobility. A walk-in tub or curb-less shower eliminates the need to step over the edge or a bathtub or shower. In addition, a taller toilet can make it easier to sit down and stand up. Finally, make sure your bathroom walls can accommodate grab bars.
Maintain independence in your kitchen. Consider adding rollout shelves or pullout drawers for storage so that you do not have to bend over as much. A microwave at counter height and seated work spaces make food preparation easier for people who have trouble standing. Finally, ranges or cooktops with controls on the front eliminate the need to reach across hot burners.
Do not forget about outlets, switches, and doorknobs. Consider putting outlets and switches where they can be reached by someone who is sitting. Light switches that do not require grasping will be easier to use. Doors with levers rather than doorknobs are easier to use by people who have arthritis or who simply have their hands full.
Costs will vary depending on where you live and the specific project. Some of these suggestions can easily be added to remodeling or maintenance projects you may already be planning, and others can be done by you or a family member in an afternoon. Most importantly, think about your own priorities and lifestyle to determine which adjustments will best meet your needs.
Copyright 12/2018, GWAAR