Modifying Your Home to Improve Safety and Accessibility
According to AARP, almost 90 percent of adults over age 65 want to stay in their homes as long as possible. For many, aging in place makes sense. It allows people to stay in the communities they know well and ensures the preservation of friendships and connections. More than anything, it allows seniors to maintain their independence longer, which is often less expensive than moving to a care facility.
If you’re thinking about aging in place in your home, the National Institute on Aging has a great article with suggestions on finding the help you need to continue living independently. Meanwhile, here are some recommendations on home modifications to increase safety and accessibility.
Top home modifications for safety and accessibility
There are many accommodations you can make to improve safety and accessibility — especially if you’re a do-it-yourselfer and are game to tackle these projects solo. The first step is to conduct an assessment so you can identify anything in the home that presents a potential problem or hazard. Evaluate each room, and create a list of items that need addressing. Common modifications include:
- Replacing door knobs and faucet handles with levers.
- Swapping out drawer and cabinet handles with easy-to-grab bars or pulls.
- Installing grab bars in bathroom showers/bathtubs and near toilets. (Sometimes this is covered under your Medicare Advantage plan.)
- Adding a shower seat and taller toilet seat.
- Installing handrails on both sides of stairwells and at all of the home’s entrances.
- Removing throw rugs and covering or rerouting power cords that present a tripping hazard.
Other recommended modifications include wider doorways and ramps to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs, though it’s usually best to hire a contractor for major structural repairs.
Find a great contractor
Jobs that might require plumbing, electrical, or construction know-how definitely call for a professional. To find the best contractor for the job, ask friends, family, and your insurance company for recommendations. Each has a relationship with reliable contractors and has reviewed, vetted, and chosen reputable companies. Taking this route ensures you don’t fall victim to one of the numerous home improvement scams many seniors have endured.
Interview at least three contractors who specialize in aging-in-place modifications so you get a good range (and idea) of the going rates for the type of work you require. Request a written bid from each one that includes the same information (type of materials, work). And don’t be afraid to negotiate!
Try to stay local, as a local contractor has local references, a local business license, and a certificate of insurance you can verify. Hiring local also means that if you run into issues later, problems can be resolved more quickly.
In certain instances, it makes more sense to avoid home renovations and instead look for a smaller home, which can have numerous advantages. For example, you’ll have fewer rooms to clean and less yard work, not to mention lower utility bills. By finding a new home, you can relocate to a space that better accommodates your needs with single-story floor plans and accessible bathrooms. Best of all, if your current home is paid for, you’re likely to turn a profit from its sale that you can put toward future living expenses.
Aging at home has become a much more popular option for many people, especially as Baby Boomers grow older and retire. With the right approach and thinking ahead to what your health might look like down the road, you can set yourself up for a comfortable, safe way of life as you enjoy your golden years.