By Michelle Seitzer
Granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, shiny wood floors, custom tiling: these are among the items frequently found on the modern home buyer’s checklist.
Decades ago, when seniors currently aging in place (AIP) were house-hunting, it’s unlikely that wide doorways and expanded halls, hand and chair rails, interior and exterior ramps, or streamlined one-level living quarters were on their checklists. But that’s what they need now, and that’s what their adult children, many of whom are boomers planning for their own present and future care needs, are struggling to provide.
Overwhelmed with keeping up on repairs and making needed upgrades to the family home, adult children often give up, encouraging Mom or Dad to ditch the aging abode in favor of something that’s safer to maneuver and easier to maintain. But moving out of a home after a lifetime of living within its walls is both emotionally difficult and economically impractical.
Thankfully, there are solutions.
Enter universal design, an emerging movement that is changing the way homes on the current and prospective market will look as America ages. Essentially, universal design considers the needs of everyone in the home – and for the long haul – instead of building and remodeling based on a perpetually young, unencumbered, and mobile tenant.
Industry experts are watching this trend unfold. In this MSN.com article
. The National Association of Home Builders said that 75% of remodelers reported getting more requests for AIP projects from customers ages 45 and up. Of those requests, 75% were planning for future needs, and 53% were living with aging parents.
Whether you renovate an entire floor of your home, build an addition (i.e. the mother-in-law suite) or complete several home modifications in stages, it is possible to age in place without moving out. Consider these tips for adapting your home – and know that the benefits extend beyond the caree to the caregiver too:
1. Ramp it up
: Installing ramps at the home’s most-used exits and entrances enhances independence and prevents home “imprisonment”. Additionally, stair lifts allow access to a 2nd floor bathroom or bedroom. Learn more about different styles and models of ramps, as well as the installation process, here
2. Simplify, simplify, simplify
: Overstuffed shelves, drawers and cabinets are not only unattractive, they’re a fall risk, a hazard, an obstacle to efficiency. Take time to do some much need cleaning and consolidating. And should you or a loved one eventually require a transition to a care facility, the work of downsizing from a multi-bedroom home to a single room or apartment will be easier.
3. Let there be light
: Lighting can make a significant difference when it comes to preventing falls and easing mobility in the home. Installing additional lights (or windows to let in more natural light) in high-traffic areas and frequently-used rooms makes the home safer – and more attractive.
4. Lend a hand
: Chair rails in hallways, grab bars in the bathroom, and other touch points for safe and supported maneuvering can dramatically reduce the risk of falls and promote independence within the home.
5. Keep things dry in the water closet
: In the bathroom, where the majority of fall-related injuries occur, incorporate non-skid surfaces; when not in use, toilet seats, countertops, tubs, and shower floors should stay dry. For examples of other bath safety products, like transfer benches or walk-in showers, click here
6. Watch where you step
: Flooring in all rooms of the house can easily present a fall risk, as can rugs that are bulky, shift around easily, or have corners that catch on walkers, canes or wheelchairs. For optimal mobility, hard flooring is best.
After home modifications have been made to accommodate an aging resident, these features, if done well, can certainly be highlighted as a selling point for future homebuyers (i.e. those young adults who are already thinking about taking care of Mom, Grandpa, or another senior relative). Invest wisely; prepare your home now.
Get more information on AIP adaptations at 101Mobility.com
Click here to read Michelle Seitzer’s article on Car Modifications and Safe Driving Tips for Seniors
Michelle Seitzer is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in elder care content. Seitzer writes for a number of senior-related websites, including 101 Mobility.com, the nation’s leading sales, service and installation provider of a complete line of mobility and accessibility products and equipment that may be customized to suit each individuals’ home care needs. Learn more about the company at http://101mobility.com/ or email Michelle (email@example.com).
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