Home Renovations for Seniors: What’s Best for You?
Although medical advances are keeping seniors healthy and active longer, aging still comes with its share of challenges. Eyesight and hearing tend to diminish, falls occur more frequently, and a walker or wheelchair may be needed for mobility. Still, according to a 2018 study conducted by AARP, 90% of senior citizens plan to remain in their own homes for next five to ten years. The problem is that living at home presents numerous potential dangers as people age and their physical and cognitive functions decline. Ordinary features such as bathtubs, stairs, and rugs can be hazardous or even deadly.
Where should you start? It can feel overwhelming when you think about identifying and fixing all the potential hazards in your home. Retrofitting your house to accommodate aging in place is a process, and it won’t get done in a day. Determining what you need to remodel and how to accident-proof your home is the first step. Think about how you intend to use your house in the future while reflecting on the challenges you expect in your later years to determine which areas pose the most potential for danger. If you need help identifying medically-required home safety modifications, Medicare Part B will likely foot the cost of an occupational therapist who can evaluate your home and determine what alterations are necessary. The National Association of Home Builders also certifies aging in place specialists who are specially trained to design and build attractive, barrier-free senior living environments.
Deciding which home improvements to make depends on individual needs. Some rooms may require extensive renovations while others may just need minor adjustments. Let’s explore some of the most popular and helpful aging-in-place home remodeling projects.
Bathroom renovations. According to the National Aging in Place Council, the bathroom is the most likely place in the home for an older person to slip and fall. Because falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for seniors, you should make the bathroom a priority in your home renovation plans. Standard tubs or showers with high sides can be difficult to enter and exit, creating hazards for the elderly. A walk-in tub eliminates the danger of tripping over the tub’s high edge and falling. While they can range from $2,000 to $6,000 on average, their low entry points reduce the likelihood of tripping. A less-expensive fix is to install handrails near the tub or shower, as well as a grab bar inside to provide support while entering and exiting. A shower seat can also reduce the risk of falls by allowing you to sit safely while bathing. Place padded non-slip rubber mats outside and inside of the tub or shower, as well.
Kitchen improvements. The kitchen is full of hazards for seniors. It’s also where people spend much of their time, so it should be a priority on your home improvement list. How easy is it to open the drawers in your kitchen? Drawers and cabinets with knobs can be challenging to open, especially if arthritis is an issue. D-shaped pulls are much easier to grasp when range of hand motion is reduced. Next, think about your upper cabinets. Pull-down shelving reduces the amount of reaching you have to do to access remote items. If working at your sink is a pain, you may want to reduce the height of your counter by several inches and install a shallow sink, which is typically just five or six inches deep. Changing out standard faucets to those with lever handles can make them easier to turn when arthritis or lack of strength is an issue.
Handrails, stair lifts or elevators. If your home is two or more stories, navigating the stairs may eventually become a challenge. Installing assistive handrails on both sides of the stairwell can provide support, making the trip easier and less dangerous. If climbing the stairs becomes too difficult, a stair lift may be necessary to access the upper levels of your home. The price for a stair lift ranges from $3,000 to as much as $20,000, depending on its features and the configuration of your stairwell. An elevator is pricey but may be needed if your stairs can’t accommodate a chair lift. Having an elevator installed costs approximately $40,0000, on average.
Non-slip flooring. As mentioned above, falls are a leading cause of death and injury for older Americans. One way to reduce the risk of slipping or falling is to replace standard flooring with a non-slip, padded surface. A variety of economical options exist, including rubber, slip-resistant vinyl, and cork, which offer traction and/or cushioning and cost less than $5 per square foot.
Wider doorways. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that widening doorways to at least 36 inches will ensure that you can continue to have easy access throughout your home if you should ever require the use of wheelchair or walker. The cost for widening doorways varies greatly, depending on the type of door replacement, its hardware, and whether electrical wiring or plumbing needs to be moved.
Enhanced lighting. Lighting is another important consideration for aging-in-place. Replace any burned-out bulbs and install additional lighting with lamps or light strips if the room is still too dark. If your current light switches are the traditional toggle type found in most homes, replace them with rocker-style switches, which are easier for older adults to use. Is the exterior entrance to your home well-lit? Consider installing a motion-sensor light that turns on automatically when you enter or exit your residence.
If you have questions about additional ways to keep yourself or a loved one safe while aging-in-place, please contact us. Our caring staff is always available to assist you.
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