Many seniors are challenging the idea that growing older means leaving home to live in a nursing home or other care facility. Instead, they are increasingly choosing to renovate their own home and enjoy their golden years in the environment where they feel most comfortable. Choosing to age in place does not mean forgoing support. Many aging seniors receive home health services as well as assistance with both home maintenance and daily tasks.
Even with support, remaining in one’s home can give a person a valuable sense of independence and empowerment. Of course, appropriate planning is necessary to ensure that a senior can age in place safely and comfortably. Before beginning any home renovations, keep in mind any specific medical issues and health issues that require accommodation. Arranging a home consultation with an occupational therapist might be a valuable use of time, as they can make a home visit and offer suggestions for that particular space. While a consultation with a specialist can provide more personalized recommendations, here are five smart home renovations everyone planning to age in place should consider.
1. Modify Flooring
Falls are a leading cause of injury for senior citizens. The Center for Disease Control reports that three million older people visit emergency departments for fall-related injuries every year. Having proper floors installed can help mitigate this risk. Short-pile carpet is a good choice for safety, as it is less likely to cause falls than shaggier carpeting. Wood or laminate flooring can be workable alternatives, but they have some drawbacks. These floors are hard enough to cause physical injury in the event of a fall. Additionally, there is a risk of slipping on a smooth floor. Rugs should generally be avoided as they can be tripping hazards. If rugs are used, they should be taped down or otherwise carefully secured.
2. Make Accessibility A Priority
Widening doorways and installing ramps makes it possible to navigate a home while using a walker, wheelchair, or other mobility aid. Another way to ensure safety is to make sure the home has at least one no-step entryway. The National Council for Aging in place recommends a no-step entry to prevent falls. Stairs can become an increasing challenge as an individual ages. A stair lift ensures that you or your loved one will continue to have full access to the whole house even once they can no longer safely climb a staircase. Another option is an elevator. Although a home elevator is more expensive than a stair lift, some families find it to be a worthwhile investment.
3. Improve Bathroom Safety
The bathroom can be a particularly dangerous environment for seniors. There are many safety features that can help prevent falls, slips, and other injuries. First, consider installing a step-in bathtub or shower. Getting in and out of a traditional tub can pose a problem for any individual with physical limitations. A step-in unit makes life easier for both patients and caregivers. The National Council for Aging in Place also recommends moving sinks and cabinets to ensure plenty of clearance space for mobility devices. Handrails are also an important safety feature and should be installed by both the toilet and bath or shower.
4. Renovate The Kitchen
With some modifications, many seniors living at home can continue to enjoy using their kitchen independently. The height of appliances, cabinets, and countertops could be professionally adjusted so that they can be accessed comfortably. Individuals with arthritis or grip problems might consider touchless faucets. The right flooring can also make standing to complete cooking and cleaning tasks a little easier. Tile is harder on hips and joints than options like cork or linoleum.
5. Rethink The Home’s Lighting
As an individual grows older, they require more light to see well enough to complete many tasks and activities. Installing brighter lights can help seniors feel comfortable and enjoy their living space more. Changing light bulbs can also be a safety issue. LED lighting lasts longer and changing light bulbs less often reduces the risk of someone falling from a ladder or chair. Additionally, any areas of the home that might be difficult to navigate should be well lit.