Updating Your Home’s Accessibility Features When Aging in Place

Claire Wentz is creator of caringfromafar.com and author of the upcoming book, Caring from Afar: A Comprehensive Guide for Long-Distance Senior Caregivers. Claire is a former home health nurse and recognizes that our aging population means many more people will become senior caregivers over the years. Specifically, she is interested in providing assistance and support to those caregivers who do not live near their loved ones. She hopes her writing will inform them, uplift them, and give them peace of mind when they need it.

Image via  Pexels

Image via Pexels

According to the AARP, 87 percent of adults age 65 or older wish to stay in their community and current home as they age. Unfortunately, about 1.4 million seniors have needed to leave their homes in order to enter assisted living care. If you are lucky enough to be able to stay in your current living situation as you age, you may want to consider investing in modifications that will make your home more accessible so you can continue living on your own as you age in place.

Doors and Handles

As we age, our bones, muscles, and joints begin to deteriorate. As our body mass decreases, common things that used to be simple become more and more difficult. If your home features any heavy doors, they may become almost impossible for you to open on your own in the coming years. Replacing the doors with lightweight versions can preemptively solve such a dilemma.

Another thing to consider is the handles on your doors. Changing out door knobs for levers can help make it easier to get in and out. It’s a simple and inexpensive fix that can make a big difference down the line.

Steps and Stairs

Ramps are relatively inexpensive and easy to install. Even if you don’t end up needing a walker or wheelchair, putting ramps over steps and stairs can make your home easier to navigate as your reflexes slow down with age. Plus, if you have friends come over with accessibility issues, they will appreciate the modification.

While you may be able to get up and down your steps without trouble today, you may find yourself taking longer and longer to do so as the years go on. Eventually, the stairs you once skipped up with ease become fall hazards. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. Ninety percent of hip fractures occur as a result of a fall, as well. So while it may seem silly and unnecessary to get ramps today, installing them can prevent a much bigger problem in the future.

The Bathroom

The bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house. Every year over 235,000 people in the United States visit the emergency room because of an injury sustained in the bathroom. To make yours safer, be sure to use non-slip rugs in and around areas where water is used. Consider installing a shower bench that allows you to clean yourself while sitting so you are less likely to fall. Another smart option is an adjustable shower nozzle that allows you to control the pressure and heat. The maximum temperature your water heater should ever be able to reach is 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Fix your water heating settings if you notice it is able to go any higher than that.

Is Remodeling the Best Choice for You?

If the accessibility modifications your home needs require a loan to complete, it may be worth your time to consider selling your current place in favor of a home that’s more accessible. Many seniors choose to downsize their places for a house with one story or a place closer to amenities they use. If you are able to sell your home for a profit and you don’t want to hang on to it for sentimental reasons, this may be a better option than going through with home renovations. How much you can get for your house depends on your particular market. According to Redfin, the average listing price for a home in Rochester, NY is $115,950.

Seniors lucky enough to stay in their homes in order to age in place may want to make some modifications around the house to make it more accessible. Things like lighter doors and safety ramps can make daily life easier as your body ages. While remodeling your home may be the best option, some may be better off selling their current home in favor of moving to a smaller place that is already accessible. It all depends on your situation.