Guide to Home Modifications: Aging in Place
According to the CDC, falls account for 36,000 deaths in seniors 65 and older, usually happening at home. So rather than risking your loved one’s safety and health, it’s crucial to understand the home modifications for aging in place.
It sounds like a lot of work and like it might be easier to move your loved ones to assisted living, but many seniors prefer to age in place.
77 percent of seniors want to stay in their place as they age, making it important to understand the necessary home modifications to make homes safe for the elderly.
Why is it Important to Have an Accessible Home?
Many seniors want to maintain their independence by aging in place. They don’t want to give up the lives they’re used to by moving to assisted living. But to do this safely, they’ll need home modifications for aging in place.
The right home modifications can prevent slips and falls, make it easier for seniors to care for themselves, and give them self-confidence.
To age in place, seniors need help at the press of a button, first-floor bedrooms, handrails throughout the house, and smart home devices.
What are the Recommendations for Aging in Place?
Every senior will need different accessibility features, but the most common recommendations are to prevent trips and falls, which are the leading cause of death among seniors. In addition, grab bars, non-slip rugs, better flooring, and better lighting are all top recommendations when aging in place.
Anything that will make it easier for seniors to see and get around without worrying about falling can help them feel more independent.
What are the Top Examples of Home Modifications for Aging in Place?
Every home is different, as is every aging person, so no two home modifications for aging in place will be identical, but there are the most common areas that need modifying to make a home safe.
The bathroom is one of the top rooms to consider when making home modifications for aging in place.
Some of the changes are minimal and inexpensive, and others are an investment that you might need to finance or apply for grants to afford.
Invest in lights that turn on when you walk into the room to reduce the risk of tripping and falling, especially at night. However, forgetting to turn the light on or being unable to see the light switch at night can be a hazard for seniors and increase the risk of hurting themselves.
Non-slip rugs and shower mats
Anyone can slip in the bathroom or shower, but seniors are even more susceptible. Having non-slip mats and rugs throughout the bathroom makes the surface sturdier and reduces the risk of falls.
Handrails in the shower and tub
Getting in, out, and out of the tub or shower can be risky for seniors, especially if they lose their balance. Having a handrail to help steady them getting in and out of the shower can enhance the bathroom’s safety.
Install a shower bench
Seniors often can’t stand for long before they lose their balance. A shower bench reduces the risk of falling in the shower by giving seniors a safe place to sit while they shower.
Install a walk-in tub
A walk-in tub can be even safer than a shower with a bench, especially for seniors who cannot stand for long periods. A walk-in tub has a door that opens and closes, reducing the risk of falling as they try to step over a high tub. For more detail, check out 10 advantages of walk in tubs.
When seniors use wheelchairs, they usually can’t fit through standard doorways. Widening the bathroom doorway allows them to maintain their independence while being able to bathe.
The bedroom is another room seniors will spend a lot of time in that should be safe. It’s best if the bedroom is on the first floor to eliminate the worry of using the stairs. If you don’t have the room on the first floor and can’t afford to modify the home to make the room on the first floor, installing a stairlift is the next best thing.
In the bedroom itself, consider the following:
Remove carpeting and install flooring
This eliminates the risk of seniors tripping on loose carpeting. If you have carpeting or flooring, eliminate all loose rugs that could pose a tripping hazard.
Install motion lights
Like in the bathroom, lighting is key in the bedroom. Adding motion lights ensures seniors can see any time of day or night in the bedroom without worrying about finding the light switch. With less fumbling to do, there is a lower risk of falling.
Make sure there’s adequate room around the bed
Declutter a senior’s room as much as possible, leaving only the necessities, such as one dresser, a nightstand, and the bed. The less that is in the room, the less risk of tripping and falling.
Install a grab bar near the bed
Seniors with trouble getting in and out of bed can benefit from a grab bar. This can help steady them as they get in and out of bed and reduce the risk of falls.
Floors and Doorways
If a senior has mobility issues, flooring could be an issue. It’s always important to eliminate any loose rugs that could cause a slip or be a tripping hazard.
If a senior is in a wheelchair, has a walker, or is unsteady on their feet, ramps may be a better option than stairs. Eliminating the risk of walking up and down the stairs could significantly affect a senior’s ability to age in place.
Seniors in a wheelchair will also need the doorways widened to allow enough room for the wheelchair. Also, wheelchairs don’t move well on carpeting, so hardwood flooring or something similar may be a safer option.
Kitchens are another important area to make accessible for the aging in place. Cooking fires are the number one reason for house fires, so it’s an important area to make accessible and safe.
Like all other rooms in the home, it should be free of tripping hazards, such as loose rugs and clutter.
However, color indicators on the stove are of utmost importance in the kitchen. This indicates when the stove is on, whether they are cooking or left the burners on. This can help reduce the risk of fires or burns.
If it’s within your budget, consider purchasing appliances that shut off automatically to reduce the risk of fires further.
For seniors in a wheelchair, you may have to completely remodel the kitchen to make it more accessible, such as counter, stove, and appliance height. Like all rooms, good lighting is important, too, with motion-activated lighting being the easiest option.
Where to Start with Home Modifications for Aging in Place
Making your home accessible for aging in place is a big investment and is likely one you can’t do all at once. The best place to start if you or your loved ones have mobility issues is ramps and other changes that make the home wheelchair accessible.
If accessibility isn’t an issue, though, the best room to start is the bathroom. This is the most common room where falls occur, so it should be prioritized when it comes to safety upgrades. Adding grab bars, walk-in tubs, and other accessible fixtures can make the room the most accessible.
What is the most common aging in place remodeling project?
The bathroom is the most common room for remodeling projects for aging in place. Adding handrails, walk-in tubs, shower seats, and better flooring are the most common way to make a home accessible for seniors to maintain their independence.
How can I make my home safe for my aging parents?
Making your home safe for your parents means eliminating any tripping hazards, reducing clutter, and ensuring all walkways are well-lit. Don’t let your parents walk through your house alone, and make sure all throw rugs or loose mats are taped to the floor. Make sure all banisters are secure and install grab bars in the bathroom.
What are the disadvantages of aging in place?
Aging in place is desirable for most seniors, but there are disadvantages to consider including:
- It can be challenging to keep up with the work the home needs
- There’s a risk a senior could fall and get hurt, and no one would know
- Seniors can get lonely, which can cause their mental health to deteriorate
- Seniors often get taken advantage of when they live alone
Home modifications for aging in place are important if your loved one wants to stay at home in his/her senior years. It can be scary, but with the right accommodations, you can make it safe for your loved ones to live in their home where they are most comfortable.
While there are some risks of aging in place, there are many benefits too. Find ways to make the home as accessible as possible and take advantage of today’s technology for your loved one to call for help immediately if anything happens.