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aging in place
House & Home

13 Home Improvement Tips for Aging in Place

I have vowed to live to be 130. Crazy, I know. And I want to do so and continue to live in my own home, often called aging in place. So I’m always on the lookout for tips and products to help me navigate the physical world and my home. Here are a few suggestions for our readers who wish to age in place or may have a loved one who wishes to stay in their home. Implement some of these improvements as you get in the upper years and you can improve your mobility in the world and enable aging in place.

Aging In Place Improvements for Bathrooms

walk in tubs help aging in place

  1. Eliminate throw rugs and other obstacles on the floor.

    We older folks don’t pick up our feet as well as we used to and therefore tend to trip more often. Be aware of your own limitations. Additional hint: Get out into your neighborhood and walk or jog several times a week. Emphasize lifting your knees as high as you can, keeping your leg muscles as strong as possible. This will keep you strong and decrease the chances of falls.

  2. Install grab bars in the shower and by the toilet.

    Bars range in cost from about $15 to a wall-to-floor grab bar at $100. Have them installed by someone who knows their business!

  3. Use a bathmat in your bath/shower if it is smooth.

    Or, use a simple shower seat if balance is an issue for you.

  4. If you have a low toilet, buy a regular-size elevated toilet seat.

    Or you can purchase an elongated riser. These options, coupled with a grab bar, will make your time in the bathroom easier on your knees! If you want to replace the whole toilet with a higher toilet, costs range from $115 to $350. Manufacturers include Delta Faucet, American Standard, Auden Elongated, TOTO and Kohler.

  5. Invest in a walk-in tub or showers.

    A walk-in tub or tub/shower combination provides non-slip surfaces and a seated position for bathers, reducing the possibility of a fall. The amount of space available and personal need will determine the type of tub you should buy. Tubs can be wheelchair accessible, bariatric (for those over 300 pounds) and available with aerotherapy (air) or hydrotherapy jets. The average cost with installation in the U.S. ranges from $5,000 to $7,000.

  6. For those in condos or apartments look into shower adaptations.

    If you are a wheelchair user and own a condo on the ground floor, you can have a contractor create a roll-in shower for a wheeled shower chair. My daughter and her husband now have a condo with this type of shower at a cost of $20,000. For a condo not on the main floor, a riser up to the lip of a shower pan can be created at a much more reasonable cost.

>READ: FALL PREVENTION: SAFEGUARD YOUR BODY AND MIND

Aging in Place With Stairs

tips for aging in place with stairs

Stairs are their own immense category. Although stairs can be a great impediment, they also keep your legs in shape and give you some cardiovascular activity during the day. But if you can’t deal with stairs anymore, here are a few solutions.

  1. Purchase a stairlift.

    Prices range from $2,000 to $6,000, the highest being $10,000 for a curved stairlift. Although this looks like a lot of money, it may be preferable to moving or adding on to your house. Interest-free financing may be available from your dealer.

  2. Consider a home elevator.

    Conventional home elevators are designed to accommodate multiple passengers, a wheelchair and a passenger, or a scooter. Needless to say, this configuration takes up a lot of room on both stories and you would have to decide which rooms to downsize. You also might be able to “add on” an elevator to the existing structure. Elevator manufacturers include Waupaca, Garaventa, Rocky Mountain, and Savaria. Prices start at $14,000 and go up from there depending on styles chosen. Another option is the pneumatic elevator or vacuum elevator, designed for ultra-modern homes. It has a smaller footprint than a standard elevator.

  3. Add on to your home.

    To solve the problem of accessibility in a home with no bedroom on the main floor, my husband and I ended up adding on – the best decision we ever made. We were able to customize a bedroom and bathroom, especially for our young wheelchair user. This, of course, involved getting a line of credit on our existing house, but it was worth it.

>READ: CONFESSIONS OF A CAREGIVER FOR AGING PARENTS: WHAT I DID FOR LOVE

Adaptations to Make for Aging in Place

  1. Always carry a cell phone.

    Younger readers will say, “Duh!” Older readers may not have up-to-date cell phones with multiple means of contact. Some may not have a cell phone at all. Apple watches are the latest updated technology for hands-free communication. Whatever communication method you choose, make sure you or your loved one can contact friends, relatives, community services, or professional providers in case of emergency.

  2. If downsizing is the best option for you, go for it.

    Downsizing may mean there is less home for you to care for or it may be more cost-effective to make aging in place improvements in a home with fewer rooms.

  3. Consider getting additional help. 

    As you age you may need help with chores around the house, like yard work or cleaning. There are many services available to provide this type of help.

  4. If you need help getting around don’t be embarrassed! 

    Your safety and ability to continue to move about and get out is more important. There are many mobility aid options, from walkers and canes to motorized scooters to wheelchairs.

Aging in place is possible if you want it. You may need support but there are options. Talk to trusted family and friends about the decision. If money is an obstacle, you may be able to get help from local community and government resources. There may also be resources to help you get around town, provide meals and more as you age in place. A good place to start is the National Institute on Aging. I wish you all good health and a happy life.

>READ: HOME ALONE: MY AGING PLAN

>READ: DESIGN FOR LIFE: AN ARCHITECT’S 12 RULES FOR VIBRANT LIVING

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