Aging in place is when a retiree makes a decision to stay in their home as they age for as long as possible. Many families have found “aging in place” as a more affordable way to retire, versus relocating to a senior living community. Some choose to remodel parts of their home specifically for their needs as they age, but if you’re over 45 or planning to retire in your current home, aging in place elements can be incorporated into any of your future remodeling projects. If you’re remodeling a bathroom or kitchen, or adding new construction to your home, incorporating safety elements now will save you money and time when you’d rather be enjoying retirement.
If you’re over 45 and planning to live in your home during retirement, take that into consideration during future remodeling projects. There are a variety of tweaks you can make to your house now to improve your quality of life down the road.
When you plan a remodel, consider the three most common changes that happen as we age:
- Loss of vision
- Decreased mobility
- Increased risk of falling
If you’re finishing your basement this year, for example, have the electrician wire the bathroom for more lighting than you think you’ll need. As loss of vision is one of the first signs of aging, 60-year-old you will thank you for the extra lighting.
Most often, aging in place modifications are added to homes reactively. For example, if you fall in the shower, your family reacts by putting a grab bar by the shower entrance to make sure it doesn’t happen again. This is reactive, not preventative. This doesn’t set you up for a comfortable and independent retirement experience, it only limits repeat accidents.
There are dozens of ways to modify your home for aging in place, from anti-scald faucets to walk-in bathtubs, but our research shows that there are three things important enough to warrant their own remodeling job:
- A 60-inch turn around radius in tight rooms, especially bathrooms: Rooms need to be wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair – you may find yourself using one rather suddenly after an accident. If your bathroom isn’t large enough for this, you may not be able to use it without assistance. Therefore, this sizing problem in tight rooms is important enough to warrant its own update.
- Hallways and doorways are all at least 36 inches wide – If you fall and come home in a wheelchair, many parts of your home may be inaccessible with a wheelchair. Older homes especially, have smaller hallways and doorways than you think. These spacing issues become a real problem quickly and are only fixable with an extensive remodeling job.
- Have all the main living spaces on one floor: As mobility becomes more of a struggle, you may reach an age where stairs are a fall hazard. Having all your critical living spaces (bathroom, kitchen, bedroom) on one floor decreases the risk of falls considerably. Additionally, your laundry washer and dryer should be on the main floor, as carrying large baskets down the stairs presents a major fall risk.
These three modifications will take time, and may make some areas of your home unusable during construction, so we strongly recommend implementing these when you have some flexibility. From there, you can look at non-slip flooring, walk-in bathtubs, lowered countertops for easier access from a wheelchair, and even thermo balanced, anti-scald faucets for your bath and shower. There are dozens of small plumbing modifications that are quick to install that will maximize your ability to live independently as you age. We recommend researching more about design for aging in place in order to figure out which are most beneficial for your needs.
Looking for guidance on a future remodel project? Reach out to us! We can offer as much (or as little) advice as you’d like throughout the process.