Look around your home. Is it easy to tell what things might cause difficulty as you get older? If you want to age in place in the comfort of your own home — or if you’re helping your mom or dad do the same — there are some changes we’ve noted over the years that should help make things easier and more pleasant down the road.
Lever door handles and faucets: These are easy to overlook when you’re young, but the older you get the more you realize just how daunting a hard-to-grip door or faucet knob can be. Replacing all knobs around the home with levers can be a hugely important part of an aging-in-place home remodel.
Better lighting and switches: Like round door knobs, small and/or complicated light switches can cause problems for the elderly. Instead, opt for large, paddle-style switches that are easier to manipulate. While we’re on the subject, it would be a good idea to consider overall lighting. As our eyes grow dim with age, a more well-lit house can help us avoid tricky obstacles. A remodel that includes larger windows and wide-open spaces can do wonders for eyesight.
Wider doorways: Speaking of spaces, are your doorways wide enough to easily fit a walker or wheelchair? Doorways need to be at least 32 inches wide to accommodate wheelchairs, but often they’re only 28 inches or less. One key to successful aging in place is to remove potential barriers now so you don’t have to worry about them later.
No-step showers: Bathrooms are common places for falls. They’re often full of hard, slippery surfaces and slight changes in elevation that can catch people off guard. We’ve installed a number of step-free showers (such as Best Bath products) over the years, and our customers rave about them as a massive improvement, especially over bathtub showers that require complicated maneuvering to climb into and out of.
Bathroom grab bars: Strategically placed grab bars also can make a world of difference in a bathroom. Next to the toilet and near the entrance to the shower, specifically designed handholds can help ensure the elderly always stay balanced.
Step reduction: Is there a step up or down from the living room to the kitchen? How about from the driveway to the back door? Steps are among the largest trip hazards, and reducing them where possible is always a step up in safety.
Ground-floor bathroom and bedroom: Does your home (or your loved one’s home) have a ground-floor bathroom and bedroom? Single-level living is a major key to aging in place; you don’t want to be making multiple trips up and down long flights of stairs every day. If you have a multiple-story home, consider remodeling to put a bathroom and bedroom on the ground floor, along with the kitchen.