If you’ve lived in the same home for decades, you may not want to downsize as you grow older. At this point in your life, you’re still healthy and independent. Your home holds countless memories, and you’d rather remain there the rest of your life. Retirement and assisted living communities can be expensive, so you’d rather not go that route unless absolutely necessary.
Many seniors want to age in place and feel the same way you do. But although your health is great, that doesn’t mean it won’t change in the future. If you want to successfully remain in your own home, modify your living space so that it’s comfortable and accessible as you move into the golden years. Read on for tips on how to do it.
One of the most dangerous rooms in the home is the bathroom. To avoid slips and falls, install grab bars. Make sure the shower has a non-slip mat. Buy a shower seat to allow bathing while sitting in a chair. If you have the funds, install a shower that features a no-step entry. Purchase a toilet seat riser or buy a toilet that is at a height more comfortable for people who have mobility issues.
Aging in place successfully means having a bedroom with a full bath on the first floor. This situation is ideal if you ever require a wheelchair, cane or walker. If it’s not possible to have a downstairs bedroom, consider purchasing a stair lift.
Remove any objects that may cause you to fall. According to aplaceformom.com, falls “are the number one cause of injuries” and death in American senior citizens. Be proactive by removing any loose carpets and rugs from the home. Put pet bowls away when not in use. Make sure electrical and phone cords are off the floor. Keep walkways clear of clutter so there’s no danger of tripping.
Water Heater Thermostat
Lower the water heater thermostat temperature to avoid scalding when you take baths, showers or wash your hands. Try setting it to around 120 degrees or less. According to the Burn Foundation, “Over 500,000 scald burns occur annually in the United States.” Adults 65 and older have a higher risk of scald burns than younger adults. If you take steps to lower your water heater thermostat, you protect yourself from preventable burns.
Light It Up
Older adults aging in place should make sure the home has plenty of lighting. Ample lighting protects you from falls if you walk to the bathroom at night. Well-lit rooms allow seniors to see more clearly and maneuver around obstacles while maintaining their balance. Consider automatic nightlights, motion sensing lights and touch lamps to ensure you always have enough light no matter where you walk in your home.
When Modifications Aren’t Possible
Sometimes you aren’t able to modify your home. It may be because modifications are too costly for your current budget. Maybe the home requires too many repairs to make it livable during your retirement years. If this describes your situation, you will need to hunt for a new home. Visit the Internet to find websites that list homes for sale. Use online filters to search for accessible homes for sale in your area. Choose homes that are close to doctor’s offices and shopping centers. If you find yourself unable to drive because of age or health, you can still walk to the store or to doctor’s appointments.
Find homes that boast one floor and wide doorways so that wheelchairs can easily pass through. Search for maintenance-free exteriors. Some condominium and patio home communities offer free landscaping and lawn mowing to homeowners. Buying these types of homes will allow you to age in place since they offer more accessibility to people with limited mobility. For example, homes in Franklin, Tennessee, typically sell for $507,000.
You can age in place if you make proper modifications to your home. Removing tripping hazards, installing guard rails, keeping your bedroom on the first floor, incorporating more lighting and lowering the water heater thermostat are just a few simple ways to make your home safer as you grow older. These simple modifications will enable you to remain in the home where you created so many memories with friends and family.
Kent Elliot is a retired architect with a passion for dogs, DIY, and universal design. After a stroke left him with mobility issues, he thought he would need to move out of his home and into an assisted living community. But, using his experience as an architect and with a little creativity, he was able to successfully remodel his family home instead. The relief he felt has inspired him to help others do the same. He created AtHomeAging.info to share what he’s learned and is currently working on a book, Aging in Place One Project at a Time: DIY Home Modifications That Don’t Require a Professional.