by Paige A. Mitchell
Aging is merely a part of life. While there are things we can do to help slow the aging process and support our bodies, we also need to be aware of the changes we may experience and our physical capabilities and limitations as we age.
As we age many of us want to stay in our homes. Often, we’ve raised our families in our houses, and have a community of neighbors, friends, church and other social surroundings we don’t want to leave behind.
When planning to age in place, it is important to consider future needs, and how we can make modifications now to our homes that will allow us to stay comfortably and safely. The following are a few home design tips to consider making so that you can stay in your home comfortably as you age.
Reduce trip and slip hazards
Consider your flooring first. Low-pile carpeting is the best alternative in most cases, but if you have tile or hardwood, you can still work with what you’ve got.
Slip-resistant mats are a major upgrade in several rooms of the house. Particularly in the bathroom and kitchen where hard floors and water spills can increase the likelihood of a fall. Look for tiles with a higher coefficient of friction value to provide greater traction. Note: area rugs may be more stylish than non-slip mats but they are not safer.
You might also remove the raised thresholds between your living room carpet and kitchen hardwood to prevent trips when walking through rooms. If you have stairs, install railings on both sides of any stairwell and consider installing a chair lift to reach rooms on the second floor. Add a ramp to exterior steps to make your home’s entry more accessible.
Look at lighting in the home too. Brighter is better!
Here’s a short list of some improvements that can light the way to a safer home:
- Add automatic lights in the hallway
- Make sure there are light switches accessible at the top and bottom of the stairwells
- Replace toggle light switches with easier-to-use rocker light switches
- Add under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen
A kitchen renovation is top priority for most homeowners, as the project can refresh the entire aesthetic of one of the most used spaces in the home. A kitchen reno should enhance the workflow of the space too.
Some suggestions include upgrading or repairing older appliances that may not be functioning at full capacity. The best home warranties cover refrigerators, dishwashers, built-in microwaves as well as electrical and plumbing, meaning they’ll send a technician to repair these items for you at a discounted rate.
Some other kitchen enhancements include adding overhead and undercabinet lights, moving dishware and cookware to convenient pull-out storage, and increasing the width between countertops and a kitchen island to a 48-inch width to accommodate a wheelchair.
Particularly in the bathroom, add a grab bar. Consider hiring a contractor for this job as they must be installed correctly to support 250 pounds, or it will just come down off the wall with the fall.
Do you have a tub and shower combo? Replace tall thresholds with an easy-access, “curbless” shower to eliminate the need to step over anything when entering a slippery surface. This will also accommodate a wheelchair if necessary.
You might also think about replacing your toilets with comfortable-height toilets, making it easier to sit and stand on your own.
Aging in place is possible, especially with support from friends, family and caregivers. If you are planning to stay in your home as you age, contact a contractor now to price and make these changes. You don’t want to wait until after you need these modifications, or after you injure yourself, before updating your current home.