More seniors are trying to age in place than ever before. This is partially due to the rising costs of long-term care and the decreasing availability of retirement homes. Plus, many simply want to remain in the homes where they have raised their families and have memories. Technology and a wider availability of services have made it easier for seniors to remain in their homes independently. But what about in the home itself? Here are some renovation tips to help seniors stay in their homes longer.
Create a Plan
The very first step you can take to make a home more senior-friendly is to do an assessment. Go through each room in the house looking for problem areas like tripping or slipping hazards, areas that are hard to access or maintain, and stairs. You could also consider getting a professional home assessment, after which a summary will be prepared with recommendations for fall prevention and home safety.
Renovation Tips to Help Seniors Stay in Their Homes Longer
Once you have an idea of what changes need to be made, you can begin to form a plan to make the home more accessible. There are several changes that can be done almost immediately and will have a profound effect on the quality of the senior’s life.
Install grab bars in the shower – Grab bars provide added security for the slippery environment of the shower or tub.
Install a shower seat – Standing in the shower can be tiring for older adults. A foldable shower seat provides relief and can be stowed away when not in use.
Replace doorknobs with lever handles – Lever handles are much easier to operate than traditional doorknobs for those with arthritis or other hand ailments.
Replace traditional light switches with rocker or touch switches – A conventional toggle light switch can be too small to handle or even see. A rocker or touch style is much easier to operate.
Use easy-to-operate hardware for windows – It is important to get fresh air, but windows can be hard to open for seniors. Look into window hardware options that are easier to operate.
Install recessed lighting that illuminates cabinets and countertops – Installing task lighting is an easy way to brighten and improve living spaces like kitchens, laundry rooms, and closets. You can install recessed lighting directly into your home, or you can stick on battery-operated push lights or remote lights.
Install lever handles or pedal controls for sink faucets – Lever handles on sink faucets make them easier to operate, but if your senior has mobility issues, then a foot pedal will be more helpful and save money on the water bill.
Install sensor lighting at each entry – Sensor lighting is a good safety feature for any house, but it can especially help older residents with impaired nighttime vision to feel secure in their homes.
More Extensive Changes
In some cases, a senior may be quite comfortable with the basic changes outlined above. However, there are times when more significant changes need to be made to keep a senior in their home.
Have a light switch at every room entrance – Seniors need to have as much visibility as possible. Installing extra light switches makes this possible. Make sure they can be reached from a wheelchair.
Have visual contrast at every level change, including stairs – Low visual contrast can make it challenging to navigate a home for vision-impaired people, leading to more trips and falls.
Replace high-pile with low-pile – High-pile carpet increases the risk of trips and falls and impedes movement for those using a walker or cane. This also goes for throw rugs and wrinkled area rugs.
Replace hardwood or tile with slip-resistant flooring – Slip ratings on flooring are very important for seniors. Pay special attention to high-traffic areas like entryways, bathrooms, and kitchens when choosing new flooring materials.
Install a curbless shower – The shower is one of the most dangerous places in the home for falling, and even minor changes in elevation can be hazardous for those with mobility problems. The ability to move straight into the shower mitigates much of the risk.
Make the entry accessible – Remove steps and obstructions from the path leading to the home’s entrance. Also, consider replacing the front porch steps with a gradual incline from the driveway.
Have a completely livable first floor – In some homes, a chair lift is necessary, but when possible, make it easy for the senior to live on the main floor as much as possible to eliminate the need for climbing stairs.