I’m passionate about helping seniors find a home where they can age in place. It’s suggested that 90% of Americans dream of growing old in their own home, yet the reality is that at least right now nowhere near that percentage will be able to. Few homes are designed with aging in place in mind. Yet, it can be relatively easy to take an existing home and turn it into the ideal home for aging in place. With that, here are the 3 most important changes you can make during a “senior remodel” to make your home a place you can stay:
- Attend to the floors. 75% of Americans 65 or older will have a fall this year. Many times, these falls are due to preventable problems with floors. Eliminating any elevation changes between rooms is key, and can usually be accomplished fairly easily. Removing carpet for hardwoods or linoleum makes floors wheelchair-friendly. And perhaps the easiest change of all is simply removing potential hazards like floor rugs and cords that could cause a senior to trip.
- Upgrade to senior-friendly appliances. Choose models that are easy-to-use and feature large buttons. I recommend a side-by-side fridge/freezer, as well as a front-loading washer/dryer combo. When purchasing a new stovetop and oven, look for auto-lock and timed shut-off features.
- Give the bathroom a makeover. Unfortunately, this is one room in the house that often gets overlooked and becomes a major safety hazard for seniors. Most importantly, the bathroom needs to have space to move, including enough room for a wheelchair. Grab-bars are essential in the shower/tub and near the toilet. Grab-bars and shower seats can be economical and very effective at increasing safety.
The main thing you’re focusing on preventing in every senior remodel is preventing falls. Whatever you can do to provide more space and fewer obstacles is a step in the right direction. I mentioned the importance of grab bars in the bathroom, but installing them throughout the rest of the house can be tremendously helpful. And don’t assume your only option is the hard-to-miss metal bars. While those are available, you can creatively install other fixtures that function like a grab bar without the sterile metal appearance. For more tips on remodeling, read this article about senior solutions.