Home is where we spend the most time, and where we should feel the most at ease and safe. But, in order to stay safe at home, seniors may need to make some house modifications to accommodate their changing needs as they age. These senior-friendly home improvements tend to focus on preventing falls, but can also make it easier to maneuver and utilize your home.
The changes to seniors’ homes we’ll suggest seek to mitigate many of the common issues associated with aging, from physical or mental decline to reduced mobility. While you may not have experienced any difficulties of aging yet, it may be a wise idea to begin adjusting your home now, before it’s more urgent that changes be made. Also, if you’re a hands-on individual, or DIY-type, it’s the perfect excuse to start some new projects!
One renovation to prevent falls in your home involves changing some of your most used floors to non-slip flooring. Two areas of the home where this is especially necessary are the kitchen and the bathroom, where spills or wet spots are more common. Non-slip flooring comes in many different varieties and materials, giving you plenty of options to pick one that fits your home’s style. One of the most common, and perhaps simplest to do yourself, is vinyl planking, which you can find at most home improvement stores. Many examples of this work like puzzle pieces — you snap the proper ends together to make them stick. Non-slip porcelain or ceramic flooring is another popular solution.
If your home has rooms that are carpeted, it may be worth removing the carpeting and going with non-slip flooring there as well. There are pros and cons to this, so it really comes down to you. Carpeting can be a great flooring for a senior home, since it softens the floor (which can prevent fractures in the case of a fall). It can also be a slip-resistant floor if properly situated on the floor. That said, if you use, or anticipate needing, a walker or wheelchair, carpeting can make it difficult for you to maneuver. A “best-of-both-worlds” solution may be to use area rugs, giving you avenues of carpet-less floor to walk on but still covering some areas. Just make sure that these area rugs are firmly secured on the floor to prevent slips (a major risk in falls in the home).
Bathroom Grab Bars
In the bathroom, you may need additional stability as you lower yourself to and lift yourself from the bathtub or the toilet or step into the shower. Since bathrooms are a common room that seniors fall in, anything that can potentially lower your chances of a slip is positive. One such thing is grab bars. When you also consider how the ease and simplicity with which you can add grab bars to your bathroom, it’s a no brainer. You can find many commercially available grab bars at most home improvement stores for under $60. Most options will be easy to install, meaning you won’t need to pay a professional service to do it for you. Of all the home improvement solutions in this article, bathroom grab bars are one of the most affordable, most effective, and simplest to install yourself.
If you’re living in a multi-story home, climbing up and down stairs is a necessity. But, the risk of falling is greater in houses with stairs and climbing the stairs can be difficult with age-related physical decline. Adding railings to your stairs can offer you stability, safety, and comfort. If you’re particularly handy, you can add stair railings yourself. Alternatively, you can contact a professional service to come in. And if you already have a set of handrails alongside your stairs, now is a great chance to make sure they’re firmly attached to the wall. The only thing worse than not having railings at all is trusting your handrail, only for it to break from the wall when it’s supporting you.
Ramps or Chairlifts
Maybe the most expensive home improvement option for a senior home that’s on this list, a ramp or chairlift may be costly upfront, but essential as we get older. Whether you’re using a walker or a wheelchair, stairs are very difficult with most forms of walking assistance. Even if your home is all on one story, you may need help entering your home if there’s a step at a doorway, for example. In some cases, a ramp could help, but in others, a ramp won’t work, like on a longer set of stairs. In these instances, you’d want to look into a chairlift. This is an automated chair that runs on a track to bring you up and down a flight of stairs. The benefit of a chairlift is that you don’t have to worry about falling on stairs, even if you don’t need the help of a walker, cane, or wheelchair. This is easily the most expensive option, however, usually costing a few thousand dollars. Alternatively, ramps usually cost a hundred dollars or more.
Planning & Financial Assistance
Before you look to make any major changes to your home, it may be beneficial to meet with an expert, like a certified aging-in-place specialist. These experts can help you decide which renovations you actually need, as well as issues in your home you should keep an eye on. Speaking with an occupational therapist or your doctor may also be a good step to determine the types of changes you should make.
Once you’ve determined the changes you want, you’ll need to pay for them. Any type of home renovation can be daunting for your finances, but in this case, there is help for seniors. There are a number of organizations, both public and private, that have programs set up to help seniors modernize or renovate their homes, often in the form of low-interest loans or grants. It’s worth checking with state or federal government websites to see what programs are available to you.
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Making major changes to your home may only seem like a large and time-consuming task, but the older we get, the more these renovations become necessary. By making the renovations before they’re needed, you can be sure that, if or when you do need to rely on these improvements, they’re in place. Even though it can be costly, if a modification is the difference between aging in place or needing assisted living, it may be worth it to you.