Many adults are looking to stay in their homes rather than move to a nursing or assisted living facility as they age. This is a critical issue at a time when “there are more than 100 million homes in U.S. cities, suburbs and rural areas, yet only about 1% of them are conducive to aging in place.” Fortunately, there are many new ways to remodel existing homes to make them safe and accessible for your loved ones for years to come.
Renovating a home to age in place will require more than just grab bars and ramps. Tackling a remodeling project designed to keep a senior citizen in their home means taking a hard look at the major structures in and around the home. Door frames should be widened to around 36” to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs. Further, if the occupant will be using a wheelchair, it would be wise to lower kitchen and bathroom countertops to make cooking and cleaning up easier. Larger projects can also include installing an elevator or lift system to make the second floor accessible or creating a master bedroom and bathroom on the lower level for one floor living. Today you can also install non-slip floor to reduce the potential for injury from falls.
There are also a lot of small tweaks that can be done during a home renovation to make a home more livable for its aging occupants. In the bathrooms and kitchen, you can install automatic faucets. Swapping out round doorknobs for level-style door handles dramatically increases access. Other smaller projects include adding additional lighting to prevent falls and installing pull-out shelves on rollers in cabinets so that it is easy to reach things even in the back. And let’s not forget the grab bars entirely because, “today’s grab bars are attractive enough to be mistaken for accent pieces, plus there are grab bars that can be used as towel bars, soap dishes and toilet paper holders, if they are properly installed and anchored.”
For more ideas, the National Association of Home Builders (our accrediting body) has a great check list for aging-in-place remodeling. NAHB offers ideas for renovating or remodeling every part of the home from the interior to appliances to storage and more. Before you begin working with a design-build firm, we definitely recommend that you print that checklist out and bring it with you to your initial consultation.
Ultimately, accessibility and functionality must be the driving forces behind any home renovation project. These types of projects are aiming to achieve universal design, which focuses “on safety, ease of movement and attractive design for all ages and abilities, inside and outside…universal design is ageless design.” If you’re looking to keep your loved one at home, get in touch with us to discover your options. In many cases, staying home is far less costly than moving to an assisted-living facility.