How to Remodel Your House to Facilitate Aging in Place


The trend toward aging in place is catching on. Retirees and seniors want to spend their sunset years in their homes. Many families are welcoming elderly relatives into their homes, either from need or by choice. The structure of American households is changing fast. Homes must accommodate the needs of their residents, especially those of seniors, who are challenged by mobility and vision issues. So, homes must be designed to be safe and comfortable for the elderly and the frail.

Read on to find out how you can remodel your house in easy ways to help you or an elderly loved one age in place safely.


Remodeling the Bathroom for Seniors

Mobility can be challenging in spaces like the bathroom. Slips and falls are common here. Plenty of simple renovations like installing grab bars, comfort-height toilets, walk-in bathtubs, and curb-free roll-in showers increase safety and convenience in bathrooms.

Install grab bars in the shower, near the tub, and beside the toilet. These are the places where a person might need to support themselves as they lower themselves to sit, stand up, or climb into and out of an area. Ensure that the support walls can take the weight of the person who uses the bars. You might have to fix support braces to add strength to the grab bars.

Squatting down and getting up again becomes progressively difficult as the elderly lose muscle strength, or if they have joint problems. You can raise the height of the toilet by installing a new taller one that is higher off the floor or by fixing a seat extender.

Comfort-height toilets, or right-height toilets or universal-height toilets, are usually the same height as the typical dining room chair. However, if you or an elderly loved one uses a wheelchair, you might want the toilet seat to match the wheelchair seat’s height. This makes for an easier, safer, and more comfortable lateral-slide transfer to the toilet seat.

If you or a loved one is prone to constipation, purchase a step stool and make sure it fits around the base of the toilet. It is easiest to empty the bowels when a person is squatting with their hips slightly lower than their knees. A step stool is also convenient for short people whose feet would otherwise dangle and cause numbness or tingling when they use a comfort-height toilet.

Roll-in showers and walk-in bathtubs enhance accessibility, especially for people who use wheelchairs and walkers. When installing a roll-in shower, ensure that it is wide enough to let a wheelchair comfortably pass through. Install a shower seat to make showering safe and strain-free.

Showers and bathtubs tend to become slippery during and after use. However, simply placing slip-resistant rugs or mats is not safe either. The rugs and mats become frayed after continued use, and can bunch up and themselves become trip hazards. Installing a slip-resistant floor coating is the safer alternative.

Consider installing a scald-proof faucet and shower accessories to prevent the water from heating up too much. A hand-held showerhead enhances accessibility and increases comfort during bathing. Install bathroom locks that can be unlocked by someone from the outside in case someone needs assistance.

Remodeling the Kitchen for Seniors

The kitchen is the center of activity in any household, and slip-and-fall accidents are common on wet kitchen floors. Spills that cannot be easily wiped clean can cause slips and falls. So, choose a floor that is non-glare. Avoid carpet tape and stay away from rugs and mats.

Consider installing non-slip tiles or easy-to-clean low pile carpets. Additionally, low pile carpets are durable and maintain their looks even after prolonged use. Cork floor coverings also prevent slips and are comfortable to stand and walk on.

You do not have to rip up your existing stone or tile floor; applying a slip-resistant coating will suffice. However, tiles or stone floors can be painful to stand or walk on for long periods, especially for someone with leg, lower back, or hip pain.

Vinyl, linoleum, or wood flooring are excellent choices in a house where a resident uses a wheelchair. Hardwood is smoother to roll a wheelchair over than tile or carpet.

The modern domestic kitchen usually has a plethora of appliances. Ensure that there is plenty of space in the kitchen to store the appliances when they are not in use. The less cluttered the countertops, the lower the chances of accidents happening, like knocking over an appliance. Install a long grab handle or several shorter ones along the edge of the countertops. These handles will help break a fall and stop someone falling from reaching out and ending up grabbing a utensil or an unhooked appliance.

The oven, sink, and refrigerator should be close to each other to minimize movement. If possible, keep the oven and the sink on the same level to facilitate ease of transfer. Have the oven aligned at counter height with an adjacent countertop to minimize the need to bend or lift. Or you can install a pullout counter just under the oven to set dishes down.

A cooktop is more convenient and safer than a standard range in an aging-in-place residence. Cooktops cool off quicker than standard ranges and make for easy transfer between the cooking area and the countertop. Cooktops can also be installed at variable heights, a critical consideration for a resident who uses a wheelchair.

Lighting for Seniors

Lighting is a critical consideration in an aging-in-place residence. The eyes weaken with age, so elderly people have more difficulty seeing at night and in dark places. The right lighting prevents accidents, reduces strain on the eyes, and creates a suitable environment where people can work and engage in their hobbies and passions.

Add lights throughout the house to increase visibility. Also, remember to install under-cabinet lighting to illuminate workspaces that would otherwise remain dark. Installing task or track lighting ensures everyone in the house has appropriate light wherever they choose to work.

If needed, move the light switches near the entrance of every room at arm’s reach. Rocker-style light switches are wider and flatter than the conventional toggle switch, so they need less finger pressure to operate. Lighted switches and lighted cover plates and outlets are easy to locate. You may also consider installing motion-sensor lights.

Stairs, Doors, and Entryways for Seniors

Aging takes a toll on the knees, so climbing stairs progressively becomes strenuous. Sometimes an aged person can have a medical condition that makes climbing stairs difficult and risky. Installing a chair lift in a multi-story home lets an elderly person access all parts of the house.

An exterior ramp can be installed to make entering and leaving the house convenient and less taxing for the knees, especially when carrying groceries.

Even if you or a loved one who lives with you are not using a walker or a wheelchair right now, you should consider this as a possibility in the future. The doorways and thoroughfares need additional clearance around them for a person to be able to maneuver a walker or a wheelchair safely and comfortably. Doorways should be at least 36 inches wide for this purpose. There are special hinges that can move the edge of a door out of and away from the passageway. These add a few inches to the doorway without you needing to break walls.

Install a D handle or a loop handle on doors to let an elderly person grip firmly. Consider using such a handle on all doors throughout the house, including cabinet doors. If possible, remove door curbs to prevent accidental trips and falls. However, if you cannot remove the curbs, install a slope to smooth the transition between rooms.

Sometimes people with Alzheimer’s disease are physically healthy and mobile. They may just forget where they are or where they are going. If you are caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease at home, install electronic door chimes throughout the house. These devices will help you stay alert and track the movements of a loved one. Also consider changing the exterior door locks so that they require a key to open from the inside as well as the outside, to avoid someone with Alzheimer’s leaving the house in a period of confusion and getting lost.

Because aging in place is becoming common, designers and manufacturers are continuously coming up with products that make it easy, convenient, and economically viable to retrofit a house. These products address the varied safety, medical, comfort, and convenience requirements of seniors. So, all that you need to create an aging-in-place residence is to research and choose what’s best for your house.


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