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  • Writer's pictureK Monk

Renovating for Aging in Place: Creating a Safe and Accessible Home

Updated: Feb 15

As the golden years approach, many seniors wish to remain in the comfort and familiarity of their own homes rather than moving to assisted living facilities. Aging in place allows them to maintain their independence and cherished memories while being close to friends, family, and the community they love. To achieve this, renovating a home is a great option that should be considered. A well-executed renovation can prioritize safety, accessibility, and comfort. In this blog, we will explore the essential considerations and innovative ideas for creating a safe and accessible home that allows seniors to age gracefully and independently.

The Importance of Aging in Place

Aging in place is more than just a preference; it has significant physical and emotional benefits for seniors. Studies show that aging in a familiar environment can lead to improved mental health, increased life satisfaction, and a sense of control over one's life. Additionally, it reduces the risk of social isolation, as seniors can continue to engage with their community and maintain strong social ties. Renovating a home to accommodate the changing needs of aging individuals enables them to live comfortably in familiar surroundings.

Assessing Your Home for Accessibility

Before diving into the renovation process, it's crucial to conduct a thorough assessment of the home's current state. Look for potential hazards, areas that might present challenges for seniors, and places where modifications could enhance accessibility. This assessment should include evaluating entryways, doorways, flooring, lighting, bathroom and kitchen features, and the overall layout of the house.

Exterior Renovations

No-Step Entry or Ramp Installation

Creating a no-step entry to the home is an excellent start to ensure accessibility. Alternatively, installing a ramp can offer a smooth and gradual approach, allowing easy access for mobility devices such as wheelchairs or walkers. Consideration can be given to exterior doors and thresholds. Is a wider door needed? A 36 inch door is sufficient for a wheelchair.

Well-Lit Pathways

Proper outdoor lighting is essential for preventing accidents. Install motion-activated lights along pathways, porches, and the driveway to illuminate the way and provide a safe environment during the nighttime.

Non-Slip Surfaces

Assess the concrete and walkways to the residence. Excessive differences in height between surfaces should be addressed. Consider adding a non-slip coating to walkways.

Interior Renovations

Single-Floor Living

To eliminate the need to navigate stairs, consider redesigning the house to have all essential amenities on one floor. This layout ensures seamless movement and accessibility for seniors with limited mobility.

Doorway and Hallway Widening

Widening doorways and hallways to at least 36 inches provides enough space for easy navigation, especially for those using wheelchairs or other mobility aids.

Non-Slip Flooring

Replace slippery flooring with safer alternatives like hardwood, low-pile carpeting, or slip-resistant tiles to prevent falls and accidents. Flooring should be installed continous throughout the house. With thresholds and transition strips not included in the design. This will ensure a smooth surface with no tripping hazards, flowing from room to room.

Stair Safety

For homes with stairs, install handrails on both sides and add non-slip treads to ensure stability and safety while ascending or descending. Stairs can also be modified to include a more forgiving rise and run (step height and depth). Consider installing a stair lift (depending on the needs of the user) to transport them from one floor to the next with ease.

Bathroom Modifications

Bathrooms are critical areas for renovation. Installing grab bars near the toilet and shower, opting for a walk-in shower or a bathtub with a door, and ensuring the sink is wheelchair-accessible are all essential modifications.

Kitchen Adaptations

Make the kitchen more user-friendly by lowering countertops and sinks to reduce strain, installing pull-out shelves for easy access, and using lever-style handles on cabinets and faucets. Kitchens can be re-worked to accommodate more features in one place, like an eating nook, small desk, or an enclosed filing cabinet for easy filing of important documents.

Bedroom Convenience

Consider placing the bedroom on the main floor for convenience, ensuring there is enough space to maneuver comfortably around furniture. Many homes can be renovated in such a way that would combine 2 rooms into one. Resulting in more accessibility for the homeowner and caretakers.

Lighting and Technology

Adequate Lighting

Proper lighting throughout the house is crucial to reduce the risk of falls. Brighter bulbs and motion-activated lights in hallways and staircases are effective safety measures. Motion sensor lighting can be installed under vanities for night time bathroom use, and incorporated into stairs or handrails for increased safety.

Smart Home Technology

Many of us understand the valuable benefits that smart home technology can offer seniors, but we were curious about the awareness and adoption of these devices among the aging population. To gain insights, a Google Survey was done on January 4th, 2020, with 1,000 Americans aged 55 and above (per The survey asked them about their ownership of smart home devices. While it is unfortunate that a significant majority of seniors do not currently own any smart home devices, it was found that 12% have embraced the convenience of a voice-activated assistant, one of the more versatile options.

Some ideas for smart home technology that can help seniors are: Voice-Activated Assistants , Smart Pill Dispenser, Fall detection sensors, Smart Thermostat, Smart Locks, Security Cameras, Robotic Vacuum, Smart Pet Feeder, Smart Light Bulbs, Smart Outlets, Smart Garage Door Controller, Smart Kitchen Appliances, Smart Clothes Washer and Dryer, Smart Air Filter Monitor, Smart Leak Detector, or a Smart Water Heater.

Incorporating smart home devices like the above can assist with daily tasks and improve overall convenience.

Safety Features

Emergency Alerts

Install an emergency alert system that enables seniors to call for help in case of a fall or other emergencies, providing peace of mind to both them and their loved ones.

Handheld Showerheads

Install a handheld showerhead in the bathroom to allow for more control and flexibility during bathing, catering to varying mobility levels.

Additional Considerations

Floor Plan Adaptations

Consider an open floor plan that allows easy movement between rooms without tight spaces, making navigation more straightforward for seniors. For some households the addition of a legal suite for caretakers may be an option worth exploring.

Accessible Storage

Arrange storage spaces so that frequently used items are easily accessible without the need for excessive bending or reaching.

Regular Maintenance

Stay on top of regular maintenance to address any potential hazards promptly and ensure the home remains in optimal condition for aging in place.

Creating a safe and accessible home is not just about adding grab bars and ramps; it involves thoughtful renovations and design that prioritize the unique needs of seniors. With the right modifications, older adults can maintain their independence, dignity, and quality of life as they age in the place they call home. By embracing the principles of universal design and accessibility, families can create a safe and welcoming environment that allows seniors to age in place comfortably and happily. Renovating for aging in place is an investment in both physical safety and emotional well-being, fostering an environment where cherished memories can continue to be made for years to come.

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