I am one of those people who bought a house when my children were young. The kids were ages five (5) and two (2) in 1996 when we closed, and are now 29 and 26, living on their own. We assumed when we signed the papers, we would stay for five years. That was the plan. It’s funny, I thought at that time I had control over my plans but learned that often unanticipated events affect our decisions and whether we are OK with the changes or not.
When Five Years Turns into Forever
Still in the two-story house where we raised our family, we have far more space than we need. I can’t remember the last time I went upstairs. There’s no reason to climb the steps – we live in our master bedroom and bathroom, kitchen, and family room which are all on the first floor, which is fortunate. Others in similar situations have their masters on the second floor which is problematic sometimes as we age. Despite the downstairs master, the house is still not easy to navigate for someone with disabilities. Not only do we have friends and family members older than us who we want to make comfortable when they visit, we are not getting any younger ourselves. Additionally, maintenance on the house, inside and out, is a headache, both in terms of cost and expense.
So why don’t we just move? The simple answer is we love our home, our neighborhood, and our community. We want our kids to come “home” to their old bedrooms, and we want a place for future grandchildren to stay overnight. We want space to store the toys and books my kids left behind so we can pull them out for their children. Finally, the thought of this house being our “forever” home is comforting – one less change to deal with as we age.
Age-in-Place Renovations to Consider
The checklist below contains features to consider if you decide to do some age-in-place renovations to stay in your home. It is not a comprehensive list but will give you a good place to start.
- Accessible path of travel to the house
- At least one no-step entry with a cover. Install a ramp if needed.
- Handrail for steps where needed.
- Sensor light at exterior entry focusing on the front door lock.
- A front door that measures a minimum width of 36-inches
- Slope no greater than one-inch rise for every 12 inches in length, adequate handrails.
- Five-foot landing is provided at the entrance.
- Low-maintenance shrubs and plants
- Non-slip flooring in the foyer
- Flush threshold preferable
Overall Floor Plan
- Main living spaces on a single story, including full bath with no steps between rooms.
- Doorways a minimum of 36 inches wide
- Levered door hardware
- Task lighting in appropriate work areas
- Smooth, non-glare, slip-resistant surfaces, interior and exterior
- If carpeted, use low (less than a half-inch high pile) density, with a firm pad
- Countertops with varied heights and removable base cabinets
- At least one wheelchair-maneuverable bath on the main level
- Grab bars securely installed in walls around the tub, shower, shower seat, and toilet to support 250-300 pounds
- Curbless shower with a minimum 36-inch-wide entry
- Lower bathtub for easier access
- Tub/shower controls offset from the center and lower for easy accessibility.
- Adjustable/handheld showerheads with a 6-foot hose
- Toilet two and a half inches higher than the standard toilet (17-19 inches)
- Light in the shower stall
- Toilet paper holder design which allows the roll to be changed with one hand.
- Slip-resistant flooring in the bathroom and shower
- Lever handles on shower and sink faucets
- Thermostatic or anti-scald controls
Kitchen and Laundry
- Adjustable and/or varied height counters and removable base cabinets.
- Upper wall cabinetry three inches lower than conventional height.
- Counter space for dish landing adjacent to or opposite all appliances.
- Easy-to-clean surfaces.
- Base cabinets with roll-out trays and lazy Susans.
- Pull-down shelving.
- Glass-front cabinet doors.
- Open shelving for easy access to items used frequently.
- Multi-level work areas to accommodate cooks of different heights.
- Open under-counter seated work areas.
- Loop cabinet door handles for easy grip and pull.
- Easy-to-read controls
- Front loading washer and dryer raised 12-15 inches above the floor.
- Microwave oven at counter height or in the wall.
- Side-by-side refrigerator/freezer.
- Side-swing or wall oven.
- Raised dishwasher with push-button controls on the outside of the door.
- clear space at appliances or 60-inch diameter clear space for turns.
- Adjustable closet rods and shelves.
- Lighting in closets.
- Easy open doors that do not obstruct access.
- Rocker or touch light switches by each entrance to halls and rooms.
- Light switches, thermostats, and other environmental controls placed in accessible locations no higher than 48 inches from the floor.
- Clear access space in front of switches and controls.
- Audible and visual strobe light system to indicate when the doorbell, telephone, or smoke or CO2 detectors are activated.
- Pre-programmed thermostats
- Flashing porch light or 911 switch
Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning
- HVAC is designed so that filters are easily accessible.
- Energy-efficient units
Why Age-in-Place Renovations Make Sense
Age-in-place renovations enable older adults and individuals with mobility challenges to maintain their independence and dignity by allowing them to continue living in their own homes safely. In the long run, these renovations are often more cost-effective than moving to a new home or senior care facility. The expenses associated with moving, selling a home, and paying for assisted living can often exceed the cost of making necessary modifications. In addition, moving to assisted living communities is frequently emotionally challenging. It’s nice to stay in one’s familiar and comfortable surroundings in their community if possible.
Planning renovations proactively to age at home can help prepare your home for potential changes in mobility and health. Contractors or interior decorators well versed in the concepts of universal design can tailor renovations to the needs of the individual. This customization ensures that the modifications address the person’s unique challenges, making daily tasks more manageable. With a little planning, you can create an accessible home that is also aesthetically pleasing!
Below are some commonly asked questions about age-in-place renovations.
What are age-in-place renovations?
Age-in-place renovations are modifications made to a home to accommodate the changing needs of individuals as they age, enabling them to continue living independently and comfortably in their own homes.
What is the purpose of age-in-place renovations?
The purpose of age-in-place renovations is to create a safe, accessible, and comfortable living environment for seniors and individuals with mobility challenges, allowing them to age gracefully and independently in their homes.
What are the benefits of age-in-place renovations?
The benefits of age-in-place renovations include increased safety, improved accessibility, enhanced comfort, maintaining familiar surroundings, and reducing the need for expensive moves to assisted living facilities.
When should I consider renovations conducive to aging comfortably at home?
It’s best to consider age-in-place renovations before you need them. Planning allows you to make thoughtful modifications and ensure your home is ready as your needs change.
What are the most common areas of the home that require age-in-place modifications?
The most common areas that require age-in-place modifications include the bathroom (e.g., installing grab bars, walk-in showers), the kitchen (e.g., lower countertops, pull-out shelves), entrances (e.g., ramps, no-step entries), and hallways (e.g., wider passages).
How much do age-in-place renovations typically cost?
The cost of age-in-place renovations can vary depending on the scope and complexity of the modifications. It’s essential to get multiple quotes from contractors and specialists to determine the overall cost.
Are there any government or financial assistance programs available for these renovations?
Yes, some government and non-profit organizations offer financial assistance or grants for age-in-place renovations. Research local programs or check with relevant agencies for eligibility criteria and application procedures.
Should I hire a professional contractor for age-in-place renovations, or can I do it myself?
Hiring a professional contractor with experience in modifications for those wanting to age at home is recommended. They have the expertise to assess your home’s specific needs and make appropriate modifications to ensure safety and functionality.
How do age-in-lace renovations differ from regular home renovations?
Age-in-place renovations focus on enhancing accessibility, safety, and ease of use for seniors or individuals with mobility challenges, whereas regular home renovations typically focus more on aesthetics or functionality for general use.
Remember that home renovations should be personalized to meet the specific needs of the individual and their home. Consulting with professionals and specialists in aging-in-place design will ensure that the modifications are tailored to your unique requirements.