How to Remodel for Aging in Place

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 by Danny Peterson

Are you familiar with the concept of aging in place? What it means, in a nutshell, is staying in your home as you get older, instead of going to live in a nursing home or assisted living community. This allows you to maintain your dignity and freedom, and it obviously brings with it some tremendous cost savings, as well! Even if you do end up needing nursing care at some point, an aging in place plan can help you remain on your own for longer than you might be able to otherwise. Of course, it does take a plan, and it might require some remodeling. One of the tenets of aging in place is that you get your home ready for a transition; you make it so that you can realistically expect to live safely and comfortably in your home even as your body changes and you maybe lose some of your mobility. This requires you to do some work in advance. If you wait until you are 85 for an aging in place remodel… well, not to be pessimistic, but that might be too late! On the other hand, if you remodel when you are in your 50s, you can rest assured that you have a home you can grow into; a home you can remain in for a good long while. But what should you think about as you consider an aging in place remodel? What are some of the points in your home that you specifically need to think about? Consider the following:

  • Start with the entry into your home. You want to make sure that you have at least one entry point that doesn’t have any steps. Just remember: As you age, you may find it harder and harder to navigate steps, and you or your spouse may even need wheelchair accessibility at some point. The no-step entry is just the beginning, though. You will also want to make sure that this entry point has a covered walkway so that you can enter your home safe from the elements. (This may simply mean coming and going through the garage.)
  • On the topic of stairs, consider access to the second story of your home. There are basically three ways to prepare for this. One method is to simply get a house that’s single-story, but if your intention is to stay put rather than move, that might be out. Another option is to have an elevator installed, which will take up a lot of space in your home and bring with it some logistical issues, but it is by no means a poor choice if you can deal with all of that. A “stair glide” is simpler, and for many it may be the preferable option.
  • Another thing to think about is widening your doors. Wider doorframes will allow you to navigate wheelchairs and walkers more easily. At the same time, it will allow two people to cross through the doorway simultaneously, and with greater ease—something that is always helpful.
  • Bathroom remodeling will be necessary. Adding some grips, handle bars, and built-in shower seats is a must. Some remodelers will recommend walk-in tubs, but this is actually impractical; it requires you to enter the tub before you start running the water, which is not how most of us do it! A curbless shower is probably better.
  • Finally, think about the exterior of your home. What you want is to invest in something low-maintenance—brick or new vinyl—and also to have landscaping that doesn’t require much work or upkeep.

Aging in place is something you will need to plan for and work toward, but the result can be well worth it.

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