While spending more time at home doesn’t seem very exciting at the moment given our pandemic, aging in place is still a popular goal.
So much so that according to AARP, 87% of adults over the age of 65 want to stay in the comfort of their current home as they age.
Unfortunately, that’s not always what happens. According to CDC, in the US alone, there are 1.3 million people living in nursing homes.
What’s more, nearly 10,000 baby boomers are retiring daily, which means droves of residents are anticipated to enter nursing home facilities as their overall health takes a toll.
And what that means is we’re poised to face a senior housing crisis (among other reasons to avoid the nursing home).
Don’t worry, though. It’s never too early (or too late) to make improvements to your home to accommodate your changing needs as you age. And what better time than now to address the modifications you will need further down the line?
While you’re homebound and waiting for something exciting to happen in your life, you can take the time to consider which areas in your home will definitely need to be remodeled for your future self. Get a pen and paper and write down what you’d like changed.
To help you out, I’ve gleaned through the modifications offered by the home remodeling industry and put together a few of the more popular ideas for you to consider tackling while practicing social distancing.
The first way to modify your home for aging in place is to remodel parts of your bathroom. First and foremost, you want to make sure showers and tubs are easy to access.
What’s the best way to avoid a slippery tripping (or worse, falling) hazard?
Consider removing your tub altogether and adding a shower without a curb. Curbless showers can look modern and fashionable, so no need to stress about a stale design.
You can also install bars and grips to help with moments of imbalance. And yes, there are sleek-looking options available for those, too. Remodeling your bathroom for your future self doesn’t mean it has to follow suit of the format you see in hospital restrooms.
The gist of it is to modify your bathroom as best you can so it’s slip- and fall-proof.
Another popular section of your house to remodel is any entrance way or stairway.
The goal is to make your doors wide enough for wheelchairs to come through. No, you don’t need to bank on being wheelchair-bound if you aren’t currently using one, but widening your pathways gives you flexibility.
Plus, you might have visitors who would appreciate the accommodation (not to mention, moving furniture will be less of a stunting puzzle).
Another option is to remove thresholds and floor borders that could be a tripping hazard in your doorways.
Finally, consider installing sturdy handrails that run alongside your stairway to give you extra balance and support.
Similar to the reason for modifying your bathroom, the main takeaway here is to remove any tripping hazards and prevent any bad falls. Which is an occurrence that happens all too often among older adults.
In fact, one in four people aged 65+ falls every year, and every 11 seconds an older adult heads to the emergency room for a fall. Not to mention, an older adult sadly dies from a bad fall every 19 minutes.
How’s that for frequency?
The next popular home modification is less about falling, but still a safety precaution.
Another popular place to consider remodeling in your house is the kitchen. The focus here is more open space with lots of light flowing through.
Why? So you can have better visibility as your sight declines. It’s worth aligning your long walkways, both indoors and outdoors, with lights for nighttime hours, too.
Another helpful way to modify your kitchen for aging in place is to design different countertop heights that accommodate various mobility levels, which will help you access various spaces for different needs (and ages).
You can also install pull-out shelves for easy access to your kitchenware and items in your cupboards and drawers. Because your kitchen is used on a daily basis, you’ll want to work in the convenience factor.
Speaking of daily use, consider modifying any place in your home that you frequent the most – today’s final tip.
A quick personal example from my family to share…
My aunt and uncle have an impressive jungle-like backyard with a long wooden (homemade, I might add) staircase that leads to their second tier. Which is wonderful because it’s a great place where they both enjoy spending time and landscaping.
But – I was taken aback when I heard that my aunt, who’s in her late 60s, fell upstairs in their backyard. (She also has occasional bouts of sciatica pain and had a previous back surgery, so I was a bit concerned.)
Since the second tier of their backyard is quite a ways from the house itself, naturally, my aunt couldn’t yell for help loud enough for my uncle to hear her downstairs when she fell. Luckily, she was able to conjure up enough inertia to eventually pull herself up, but it was a scare nonetheless.
So, aside from carrying a cell phone on her whenever she’s by herself in her luscious backyard, they need to do a property-wide safety check and set up sturdy handrails in not-so-sturdy parts of their house – indoors and out.
The moral is to scour your property for awkward steps and prepare for any potential future slips. A simple home modification can work wonders.
The good news is you don’t have to go all-in at once and remodel your entire house to make it a comfortable place of residence for your 90-year-old self.
As you continue to maintain and upgrade parts of your home and invest in home improvement projects, consider these three home modifications, which are mainly future safety checks.
A big benefit is you’ll be less overwhelmed down the road because you’re being proactive and taking care of it now.
Modifying your home to accommodate your future is just one simple way to work your way toward successful aging and aging in place.
If you want to learn more important ways to age in place, watch this free workshop on How to Live a Purposeful Retirement Life. Purpose works wonders for successful aging and ups your chances of aging in place.
Which home modifications will you consider in your next remodel? How will you accommodate your future self so you can age in place? Please share with our community!