There are three action steps you need to take if you want to stay in your home as long as possible as you age:
PLAN, PLAN and PLAN!
Staying in their homes for as long possible is the choice of over 89% of the 50+ populations according to recent AARP research.
This ideal scenario — growing old in your home and your community — can become a reality if you develop a plan long before a crisis happens — before a broken hip, failing eyesight or balance problems require accessibility modifications as quickly as possible.
Even if you’re in your 40s, most likely your parents are in their mid-60s or 70s, or even 80s. If you haven’t already begun to help them stay in their home as long as possible, begin planning for them– as well as yourself – today!
Aging in place is about accessibility, comfort and safety – without sacrificing aesthetics. Develop a plan and start getting quotes from contractors and designers for some of the most common modifications to your home, such as:
- No step entries into your home and all rooms
- One-story living that includes a bathroom, food preparation/cooking area and a comfortable sleeping space
- Doors 32-36 inches wide to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs
- Hallways 36-42 inches wide
- Extra floor space that allows everyone to move around comfortably
Start with the bathroom
The bathroom doorway should be a minimum of 32”wide. Most older homes have 24” wide doorways. If getting in and out of the bath tub becomes difficult, plan to remove the tub and replace it with a curbless shower with a bench and install grab bars. You may also want to consider a taller-than-average toilet. And, of course, a grab bar in the toilet area is a must. I know the picture in your head right now is one of a sterile hospital or nursing home bathroom. But, with the right contractor and design professional, even on a small budget, your bathroom doesn’t have to look institutional.
Convenience is the focus in the kitchen
In the kitchen, first think about the flooring. If you have tile floors, you should consider vinyl, linoleum or cork, which are much easier to stand on if you have hip or lower back pain. And, hardwood floors make for much easier maneuvering if you’re confined to a wheelchair. Also, plan to add areas where you can be seated while you’re preparing meals.
Side-by-side, double-door refrigerators are easier to use for individuals in a wheelchair. A counter-top microwave is more practical than one over the stove which requires lifting heavy dishes. A wall oven also eliminates the need to bend that’s required with a traditional stove.
Thanks to today’s modern kitchen accessories for drawer storage, out-of-reach kitchen cabinets are no longer a kitchen design necessity.
Diminished eye site is very common as we age. Be certain that every room in your home, and outside, too, has many bright lights. A single lamp in a room is very unsafe. Consider recessed lighting that limits the amount of bending to plug in lamps to electrical outlets. Flood lights in the garage, the front and backyards will go a long way toward avoiding stumbles, or even worse, serious falls that may cause broken bones.
Medical Monitoring Devices for Peace of Mind
Sometimes making your home “age-friendly” is not enough. Your family and friends will really have peace of mind if your Aging in Place plan includes use of remote monitoring devices that continuously provide personal health data. There are virtually thousands of devices helping seniors maintain good health, including, for example, medication adherence wireless systems like Maya from MedMinder, or in-home motion sensors that monitor unusual behavior that could forewarn of a potential health issue, i.e., getting up six times to go to the bathroom.
The cost of remodeling your home to achieve your goal of aging in place will vary and depends on how much structural work you need. However, consider the alternative. A private room in a nursing home averages $77,745 a year and a single room in an assisted living facility averages $39,000 a year.