Aging in place is becoming increasingly popular as seniors are looking for ways to enjoy greater independence in their golden years. Though many baby boomers intend to remain in their own houses well into the future, only 1 percent of American homes are equipped with adequate accessibility features. Consider making modifications to your home so you (or your senior loved one) can age in place comfortably and maintain good health for years to come.
Important Factors to Consider
Unfortunately, household injuries are a common threat to senior health and longevity. So, focus your initial household modifications on injury prevention. People who have senior parents living at home can take some advice from Angie’s List: "Make a point when visiting to observe how Mom or Dad gets around the house. Input from the doctor and other health care professionals may give you insight on your parents’ abilities and areas of difficulty.” This will help you determine which home safety modifications need to be made.
Some important ideas to consider include:
Removing fall hazards such as cords, loose rugs, and clutter.
Installing railings and grab bars throughout the home.
Replacing the bathtub with a step-free shower.
Laying down non-slip flooring.
Making Daily Life Easier
In addition to preventing falls, enhancing accessibility in the home can increase comfort and convenience. Since food preparation is an important part of daily living, consider raising the dishwasher so it’s easier to access, adding a roll-under sink for wheelchair users, replacing faucet knobs with levers, and lowering kitchen work surfaces. For more kitchen modification ideas, check out this article by AgeInPlace.com.
Seniors with walkers or wheelchairs can benefit from large bathrooms so they can maneuver around more easily. According to The Senior List, just raising the toilet by three inches can make it much easier to get up from. Also, a simple detachable shower head is a great option for seniors who prefer to sit while bathing.
Smart home devices can give seniors greater independence, too. These technologies can allow seniors to turn lights on and off, contact medical professionals, ensure their doors and windows are secured, and access entertainment—all with their voice.
Finding a Contractor to Help with Modifications
A good contractor will work with seniors, their family members, and even their health care team to come up with unique designs for modifications to best suit individual needs. If you can, look for a contractor that specializes in home modifications for seniors or people with disabilities.
Before hiring your contractor, conduct a background check, ask for references, and make sure to get a written contract. Never agree to give them a full payment up front. Instead, follow an appropriate payment schedule outlined in the contract. You may be able to find contractors by talking to local senior support organizations or asking for recommendations from people you know who have had home modifications done.
The Benefits of Aging in Place
But is all this work really worth it? For many seniors and their families, it is. There are several reasons why aging in place is a desirable option for seniors. First of all, it’s much more affordable than nursing homes, which cost an average of $6,844 per month. Even assisted living facilities can cost you $43,000 a year. Home health aides and homemaker services are significantly cheaper alternatives.
Additionally, aging in place allows seniors to enjoy all of the comforts of home and feel more in control of their lives. Being in a familiar place can slow memory loss and prevent seniors from feeling overwhelmed or disoriented. This is especially important for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease. Plus, staying at home keeps seniors close to their friends, encouraging mentally stimulating socialization to prevent loneliness and cognitive decline.
Making home modifications will help seniors maintain a high quality of life while providing their loved ones with greater peace of mind. Though it will take some careful planning and work, most seniors will be happier aging in place, even when faced with mobility limitations or chronic health conditions. In the end, there’s no place like home!