How to modify your home so you can safely ‘age in place’

Growing Old_FB

It is becoming increasingly common for people to “refire” in their sixties rather than retire. One significant implication for the property market as a result of this trend is the accompanying preference for “ageing in place” as opposed to selling the family home and moving to a retirement village or old-age home.

One of the main reasons for wanting to “age in place”

Chances are that the existing home will need some modifications to make it comfortable and safe for the owners as they get older, but another reason that many senior citizens prefer not to move is the fear that they will not be approved for a home loan if they need one to buy another property. They would rather seek approval for a “further loan” to pay for the alterations they need to make – or pay for these piecemeal if that application is turned down.

Recommended home adaptions

Meanwhile, the National Association of Home Builders in the US already offers specialist courses and qualifications for contractors who are interested in helping people adapt their homes to make life easier as they get older, without making it look like an institution. The following are among some of the most important home modifications recommended:

Add lighting
Natural light, more lamps, recessed lighting and task lighting in the kitchen all make it easier to see what you’re doing, no matter what your age. What’s more, adding more lighting as you get older can help reduce the chances of injury. Contrasting surfaces, such as countertops that are a different colour from the floor and colour changes at steps, also help to make homes safer.

Smooth your path
Choosing flooring is a bit of a tricky issue because while hard surfaces or low-pile carpet are best for wheelchairs, they can be slippery or too cold, especially in big rooms. The most important thing is to get rid of trip hazards such as throw rugs, create clear paths through the home and eliminate stairs wherever possible.

Deal early with staircases
For people who live in double-storey homes, it’s a really good idea to rearrange or renovate in such a way so as to create a bedroom suite with a full bathroom downstairs. While most people can’t afford an elevator, a chair lift is also a good option for those who are getting a little frail or too unsteady to manage the stairs alone.

Embrace modern aids
When altering kitchens to make it easier to age in place, homeowners should look out for really helpful products and aids such as:

  • Motion-activated taps
  • Pull-out shelves (that make it easier to see and retrieve items without bending down and peering into a dark cabinet)
  • Levers instead of twist-controls
  • Pedestals that make front-loading appliances and ovens easier to use.

Don’t forget the bathroom
In the bathroom, grab bars can be attractive enough these days to be mistaken for accent pieces, and can even double up as towel rails and soap dishes. Old-fashioned bathtubs can be replaced with glamorous steam and massage showers, complete with seating and slip-resistant flooring to make them safer.

Widen doorways
The easiest way to do this is to use offset hinges that move the actual doors right out of the way. It’s also may be worth removing any moulding around doorways as well.

Improve the access area
Add a railing to your front steps, for example, or better yet, replace them with a tapered walkway. Add a shelf where you can put things down while you unlock the door and a roof so you don’t get wet if it’s raining. Lay some paving and pathways to make it easier to get around the garden, and get an electrician to move light switches and plug points to make them easier to reach.

Growing older doesn’t have to mean selling your family home but more than likely, it will mean having to make multiple modifications in order for it to remain a safe place in which to live.

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