Staying in your home as you age can be a comfort and help you retain your independence while also maintaining your lifestyle and friendships with neighbors. If you decide this is the right decision for you, you might want to start to consider what alterations you will need to make to your house to improve its safety and accessibility.
Every part of your home could turn into a challenge or even a hazard if you should become less able-bodied. Here are the most common upgrades by room or area.
A porch or a set of stairs create curb appeal, but they can also present a danger to you or visitors who have trouble climbing steps. Installing a ramp or a lift that can accommodate a wheelchair may be your best solution. You will also want to look at other areas inside your home that might cause difficulties for someone in a wheelchair or using a walker, such as raised thresholds between rooms.
The bathroom is one of the most perilous rooms in the house. You can lessen the potential problems by replacing your existing fixtures or adding assistive features.
Grab bars next to the toilet and in the shower are a cost-effective way to prevent falls. Alternatives include elevated toilets and walk-in bathtubs. If you prefer showering to bathing, choose a wheelchair-accessible roll-in shower with multiple shower heads. Lowering the sink and widening the knee space below it will also help those who use a wheelchair.
In the bedroom, your main concerns revolve around storage and lighting. These can be relatively simple fixes. Assuming you already have a walk-in closet, you will want to ensure that you can reach your essential items even if you’re seated in a chair or a scooter. Swap out your flip light switches with rocker ones. They’re easier to turn and off, especially for those with arthritis. Make sure they’re at accessible heights and locations, as well.
While not a home improvement, an adjustable bed with bed rails may be a wise investment that has the added benefit of being portable should you eventually need to move out of your house.
Like the bathroom, the kitchen can pose several accessibility issues. If you have the financial resources and do a lot of cooking, you might want to reconfigure the layout and change out the appliances. Key considerations are:
- The height of the counters. Can you reach them even if you’re in a wheelchair? Are they too low because you can no longer bend over?
- The location of the microwave and conventional oven. Are you able to open the doors easily? Do you have room to maneuver yourself to them?
- The dishwasher placement. Is it high enough?
- Lower-cabinet storage. Do you have the amount of space you need?
- Ample knee clearance under the sink. Can you fit your wheelchair in there?
You may need to hire a professional to guide you in the redesign of your kitchen. Look for someone in your area who has experience adapting homes for improved accessibility.
Additionally, if you have a two-story home but want to remain living there, think about moving your bedroom to the first floor, if possible, or put in a stair lift. With your family’s input, decide if remaining in your home is the correct choice for you before you spend money on any projects to future-proof your house.