Aging in place? 7 things to consider
Talking about older adults is a challenge. It’s not like talking about teenagers, or toddlers, who all pretty much like the same things. The group includes a broad range of ages, interests and living situations. Younger boomers sometimes bristle at being called seniors, especially if you call them that while they’re on a road trip on their Harleys or rock climbing on the Costa Brava. To them, “seniors” applies to older folks who are slowing down and find it a bit difficult to get around. Regardless of what stage of aging you’re in, you, like many older adults in the U.S. may be considering aging in place, either the place you’re currently living, or buying one with a friendlier layout. If so, we invite you to read our list of things you may want to consider when compiling your wish list for that home.
Single level living is easier
A single-story home is the most obvious requirement for an older adult living on his or her own. Even younger Baby Boomers find that traveling up a flight of stairs sometimes hurts the knees. For older folks, not only may stairs be difficult or impossible to navigate, there is the real danger of slipping and falling.
Keep an eye on future mobility
Most hallways in homes are 36 inches in width, which is far too narrow for someone in a wheelchair. In an existing home, knocking out a wall to widen a hallway may be a major project. If you are purchasing a home, ensure that hallways are at least 42 inches wide – 48 inches is ideal, according to the experts with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). Install a ramp to compensate for changes in level if you have trouble navigating. Curved ramps aren’t recommended, according to the experts at Drummond House Plans, as steering a walker, wheelchair or scooter may be challenging on a curved surface.
Make the bathroom user-friendly
Over 230,000 people are injured in the bathroom each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Two-thirds of these accidents occur in the shower. Making a senior-friendly bathroom is as easy as applying non-skid strips or a rubber mat on the shower floor and grab bars inside the tub. There are, however, other things you can do for extra security, according to the National Aging in Place Council (NAIPC):
- Remodel the shower so that it’s possible to roll into it in a wheelchair
- Lower the bathroom sink
- Install an elevated toilet.
Traditional kitchens are the most challenging rooms for the wheelchair-bound to navigate. Even if you currently don’t use a wheelchair, if you plan to age in place, you may want to consider the possibility that one may be in your future. The specialists at NAIPC have several suggestions on how to make the kitchen user-friendly for seniors:
- Install cabinet hardware that is easy to grip.
- Provide at least one 34-inch tall countertop with no obstructions beneath it. This allows the senior to sit while performing kitchen chores.
- Elevate the dishwasher one foot off the ground.
Install a walk-in closet with a doorway that is at least 36 inches wide. To make them easier to reach, lower the shelves and clothing bars. Move the light switch inside the closet to within 36 to 40 inches from the floor. For those middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom, light the pathway from the bedroom to the bathroom. This can be accomplished with a nightlight or with motion sensor lighting. Large home improvement stores carry nightlights with a kick plate that the user can turn on with the touch of a toe.
Good lighting is essential for safety if you plan on aging in place. There’s a delicate balance, however, between adequate lighting and creating glare. The CDC recommends florescent bulbs while the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) says that LED bulbs are longer lasting than traditional or florescent bulbs. To avoid glare, NARI suggests installing easy-access dimmer switches, pendant lights and under-cabinet lighting. If you plan on renovating your current home rather than purchase another, be sure to use a contractor that holds the Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) designation. If you’ll be purchasing, we’re happy to help you find the perfect home in which to age in place.