Modifying your home to be accessible as you age can be a daunting task. From minor adjustments to major overhauls, it seems like there’s an endless list of home accessibility modifications to be made. So where to start? Here are the three most important areas of your home to update for senior living:
Staired entryways aren’t only challenging for wheelchair-bound seniors. Balance problems are common, and even a small staircase can present a risk to aging adults.
To reduce fall risk, create at least one wheelchair-accessible entrance into the main level of your home. Even if you never use a wheelchair or walker, an accessible entrance provides convenient access for wheeled grocery carts and luggage, so you don’t have to worry about hauling unwieldy items up stairs.
Wheelchair ramps don’t have to look sterile. When you plan in advance, you can design an accessible entryway that fits seamlessly into the architecture of your home. A gradually sloping walkway can be nearly imperceptible when lined with landscaping. If you have a larger staircase to navigate, a ramp accented with planter boxes or shrubbery can be an appealing addition to your home’s facade.
Your bathroom may be the smallest room in your house, but it can also be the most dangerous. According to the National Institute on Aging, 80 percent of falls in seniors age 65 and up occur in the bathroom. And the most common body parts to be injured in a bathroom fall are the head and neck, making bathroom falls especially risky.
Most falls occur while getting out of the or shower or using the toilet, so it’s wise to focus accessibility modifications on these areas. Replace your flooring with linoleum or vinyl that won’t become slippery when wet, and install grab bars in the shower and near the toilet. If you’re replacing your toilet, consider opting for a taller version to reduce the amount of effort needed to get on and off. It may seem like a minor thing now, but it can make life a lot more convenient in your senior years.
If your bathroom features a tub, replace it with either a walk-in tub or a curbless shower. Curbless showers are preferable, as they permit easy access for walkers and eliminate the possibility of tripping over a threshold.
You should also update your bathroom hardware. Many faucet styles are difficult for arthritic hands. Lever faucets that control both water flow and temperature are considered best for senior accessibility.
Kitchens pose unique risks to mobility-limited seniors due to the bending, standing, and lifting that cooking can require. When you’re upgrading your kitchen, plan to integrate senior-friendly modifications so you only have to remodel your kitchen once.
Side-by-side refrigerator and freezer combinations offer easier access than versions with a freezer above or below the refrigerator. Likewise, standalone ovens can prove challenging for seniors who use a walker, wheelchair, or otherwise struggle with stooping. While the initial costs can be high, installing a stove top that’s affixed to a counter and a wall-mounted oven can keep you cooking at home for years to come.
Tiled floors can quickly fatigue the feet and back, so replace tile with vinyl, linoleum, or cork for attractive flooring with a little more give. Consider lowering the countertops and integrating a seated workspace so you can take a load off while cooking.
Updating your home for senior accessibility is a big project, but the rewards of aging in place are more than worth it. To keep your home convenient and safe through every stage of life, plan to incorporate home accessibility modifications into remodeling projects over the years. By adapting your home gradually, you’ll be able to spread out the costs and keep your house feeling like home with design-conscious updates.
Image via Pixabay by sferrario1968