When thinking about a home that’s ready for senior living, chances are you picture things like bathtub benches, stairlifts and grab bars. Although these are important modifications for many aging homeowners, they are by no means the only aging in place enhancements to choose from. In fact, there are many home modifications for seniors that can greatly enhance quality of life without being complete eyesores.
Aging in place modifications are all about making your home easier to live in based on your changing needs as you get older. According to our 2017 Aging In Place Report, 85% of Canadian seniors plan to age in their homes. If they are to achieve this goal, homeowners will need to make the necessary preparations.
Read on for inspiration on how to prepare your or a loved one’s home for aging in place.
Replace Doorknobs with Levers
As dexterity becomes more challenging, gripping and turning doorknobs can become a challenge. Swapping out your doorknobs for hand levers is not just a functional improvement, but can also instantly add a touch of class throughout your home.
Widen Hallways & Doorways
Should you ever need a wheelchair or walker, you’ll want to ensure that you have hallways and doorways that are wide enough to easily pass through.
It’s important to be safe when opening the door to your home by checking who’s there, but if you can’t reach the peephole anymore to look out then this will not be possible. By lowering your peephole to a more comfortable height, you’ll have no problem keeping an eye on your home.
Lower Light Switches
Similarly to a peephole, ensure that your light switches are at a comfortable height that you can easily reach. As we age it becomes more challenging to lift our arms high, especially when holding onto a walker or sitting in a wheelchair, so keep switches within arm’s reach as that reach becomes more limited.
With poor eyesight, it can be tricky navigating a room when everything is a similar colour, especially when it’s dark and you’ve misplaced your glasses. Contrasting colours will not only help you easily distinguish different parts of a room, but is also a great opportunity to add flair to any room.
A common tripping hazard is unexpected floor height changes between rooms. Ensure that you and your guests don’t get caught off guard and fall by making sure that there is a flat surface in all the entryways in your home.
Shiny, slick hardwood floors look great, but they also mean that you are at great risk of losing your footing when walking throughout your home. Consider switching to flooring that has more grip or adding area rugs (and be sure to secure these with pads or grip tape). Stairs are one of the biggest tripping hazards in your home, so if you must have hardwood stairs, then add non-slip tape to keep your feet in place.
Handrails on Both Sides of Stairways
If you lose your balance, you want to make sure that you’re able to catch yourself no matter which direction you fall in. By installing handrails on both sides of your stairway, you’ll be able to get added stability when ascending or descending the floors in your home, as well as have support right where you need it should you accidentally slip.
Cooking and cleaning can already be quite the chore, but if you’re having trouble reaching the counter to do these then they’ll be downright unbearable. Lowering your counters by even a few inches will make it much more comfortable to go about your daily kitchen tasks and keep the children (and grandchildren) coming over for Sunday dinner. Just be sure to keep the cookie jar somewhere else.
When lifting dishes or cookware, you need to keep your arms steady and secure. By lowering your cabinets, you’ll be able to more easily see, reach and hold the various items in your kitchen.
Induction stoves are an easy way to significantly minimize the chance of burns in the kitchen. Instead of heat, they use magnets to heat up your cookware, so once your stovetop is clear, there won’t be any heat remaining on its surface.
Light in Shower
The shower is one of the most hazardous places in a home. One of the keys to maintaining stability is through proper lighting, so you can visualize what’s around you and not miss something that could lead to a fall. An overhead light will not only solve this problem, but it will instantly add a touch of class to your bathroom.
Fold-Down Shower Seat or Bench
Despite being at the bottom of your list of design aesthetics for your washroom, at a certain point shower seats may become a necessity. Fortunately, there are many companies now offering stylized seats that can be installed into the wall for easy storage once you’re done that aren’t total eyesores.
Alternatively, if you have the space then consider installing a bench that combines function and style.
To aid with directing the flow of water, especially if you intend on using a shower seat, swap out your fixed showerhead with a handheld one.
As sitting down and up becomes more challenging, you’ll want to be able to do so when you’re all alone in your bathroom. Rather than purchasing an eyesore like a booster seat, simply installing a toilet with more height may be all you need, while remaining subtle enough that it’s barely noticeable for your guests.
Relocate to Main Floor
If stairs are becoming a challenge, they are all the more difficult when you’re tired at the end of a long day. If you have the space available, consider converting one of the rooms on your main floor into a bedroom so it’s easier to get to bed at night.
Automation & Technology
When it’s dark in your home, it’s very dangerous to wade through a dark room in search of a light. Smart lights will light the way for you once it detects that you’re on the move, making it much easier and safer to go wherever you need to during the night. You may also want to consider a soft night light to help with your initial steps before the sensor lights pick up on your movements.
If you’re cozy and in bed but it’s a bit too chilly in your room, the last thing you’ll want to do is get up and go all the way to your thermostat. With a smart thermostat, just reach for your smartphone to adjust your home’s temperature. It will learn your preferences over time, meaning your home will always be whatever temperature you find most comfortable.
A video doorbell allows you to keep an eye on your home wherever you are: in the bathroom, kitchen, living room, or even on vacation. This will save you needing to go up and down stairs or across other large stretches of your home only to find out that someone accidentally rang the wrong doorbell.
Smart Watch/Heart Monitor
Smart watches like the Apple Watch or the iBeat keep track of your heartbeat and notify your loved ones or 911 in the event of an emergency. In addition to looking futuristic and enabling you to easily perform routine tasks from your wrist, these devices could end up saving your live!
Regardless of what age you are, it’s never too early to start planning for the future. How do you measure up against the rest of Canadians when it comes to prepping for aging in place? Read our 2017 Aging In Place Report to find out!