How to Renovate a House for Aging in Place

Closeup of an older person using a grab bar in a bathroom

How popular is aging in place, or rather, the plan for homeowners to retire and age in their current homes? In 2018, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that 52 million Americans over the age of 65 live in the country, with the number expected to reach 95 million by 2060. In the U.K., 19% of the population was over 65 as of a 2019 survey.

Millennials may be the largest generation in sheer numbers, but their parents are reaching retirement age. Many may choose to live out their golden years in an assisted living facility or nursing home. Still, this isn’t the preferred option for others, who would rather stay at home or with other family members as their health allows.

One solution that many seniors are embracing is the concept of aging at home. What does it take to renovate a house to be safe for older adults who choose to age in place?

 

Why Is Aging in Place So Popular?

Aging in place is not a new concept, but it is becoming increasingly popular as more people reach retirement age and start looking for options. According to industry research, upwards of 90% of seniors want to stay in their homes as they grow older.

Staying home is often much less expensive than paying for a nursing home or assisted living facility. Additionally, surveys show that aging in place helps improve self-esteem and quality of life while helping to promote life satisfaction.

Moving, especially after spending years or decades in the same home, can be emotionally challenging for elders and their families. Additionally, buying a new home is stressful, especially in a fickle market that may make buying or selling more challenging for a senior on a fixed income.

Unfortunately, most homes aren’t designed to support aging adults, especially those that might struggle with mobility. What should homeowners consider changing if the goal is to make the house safe and effective for people aging in place?

 

Bathroom Renovations

The bathroom is one of the most frequently used rooms in the home, but it can also be one of the most dangerous for a senior. Most falls occur when the resident is climbing in or out of the tub or shower or using the toilet. A bathroom renovation should include:

  • Replacing the existing toilet with a comfort-height model that is easier to sit on.
  • Replacing the tub with a shower stall or adding a shower chair reduces the chances of slips and falls in the shower.
  • Wall-mounted sinks can be placed higher for ease of use while standing or lower for individuals who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids.

 

This can be the most expensive renovation, but as the bathroom is one of the most dangerous rooms in the house, it becomes worth the expense.

 

Widen All Doorways

Most people don’t think about the size of a doorway until they can’t fit through it. Average interior doorways may not be large enough to accommodate a wheelchair or other mobility aids, making it more difficult to age gracefully at home.

Hire a contractor to remove the existing door jamb and create a wider door frame to accommodate these mobility aids. They will also need to move and rewire any lights, fixtures, or switches near the door frame. It may also be a good idea to update the type of door – a sliding or barn-style door could be much more accessible than a standard swinging door.

 

Updating Knobs and Faucets

Spinning door handles or faucet knobs might seem easy for the average person, but it can become more complicated with age. Instead of relying on these round knobs, swap them out for lever-style handles that are easier to open and close.

Search for fixtures compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to get a better idea of the kind of hardware that will work best in these situations.

 

Installing Hand Rails and Grab Bars

Sometimes, having a little bit of extra stability can make all the difference with safety in the home. Add handrails or grab bars anywhere the resident might need a bit of extra help, including in and around the shower, beside the bed, or anywhere else they can think of.

Opt for rails or bars bolted to the wall studs rather than the suction-cup style that works best in showers or on tile.

 

Replace Carpet and Level the Flooring

It doesn’t take much to trip someone. If the floor is off-level by as little as half an inch, it could be enough to catch the edge of a shoe or the foot of a cane or walker, sending the individual sprawling. Carpet tends to be problematic for individuals with mobility issues as well.

Make sure there are no lips where someone could trip. Removing carpet and replacing it with linoleum, hardwood, or other flooring options can make the home easier to navigate.

 

Safety Renovations For Aging in Place

For most seniors, aging at home is the best way to spend their golden years. Ensure the house is safe for these elders to live independently while ensuring they have everything they need to stay safe as they age at home.

 

By Evelyn Long, Editor-in-Chief of Renovated.