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Selecting and Renovating your Home to Age in Place

 | Published on 2/14/2020

Some tips on Aging in Place:

Here are a few tips on things you may wish to consider to make your home more age friendly. These tips are not comprehensive, and extensive guides have been written and should be reviewed.  Contractors can now obtain certification in Universal Design Principles (design principles that work for all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability), although that may not be necessary for your specific situation.  You can pick and choose which of these tips may be appropriate for your situation.


Initial home selection (if you may move):

Ideal: Choose a 1 story home if possible, with no or very few steps into the home, and wide doorways/hallways. Universal design principles used in home construction. Useful to have an extra bedroom that could house a caregiver if needed.

Reality: Majority of homes in area are two story, and almost none incorporate universal design principles, so look for first floor master bedrooms with full baths, or staircase configurations that would allow for an electric chair lift, or place where an elevator could be installed if needed.  Look for wide hallways to main rooms used, and wide doorways (or doorways that could be easily widened) for main rooms used. Look for no or very few low steps into the home, or alternate entrance where a ramp can be installed if necessary.


Renovating your home to make it more age-friendly:

  1. Review your options - AARP has an excellent guide at:

    https://www.aarp.org/livable-communities/info-2014/aarp-home-fit-guide-aging-in-place.html

  2. Identify which home features are potential barriers to aging in place in your home
  3. Prioritize which features are most important to change
  4. Develop guesstimates of costs for changes (use various websites such as the AARP guide, Home Depot or Lowe’s, Angie’s List, etc.)
  5. Determine your budget
  6. Develop a timeline for when you wish to make changes, and in what order
  7. Determine which changes you can make yourself versus those that will require a handyman or contractor
  8. Make sure to get multiple bids and compare them, as well as check references
  9. Get permits if required (e.g., moving bearing walls)
  10. Double check your contract before you sign, and make sure it specifies everything necessary

Some things you may be able to do yourself (or have a handyman) do to reduce costs:

  1. Declutter, reorganize, and place items needed regularly in more accessible location
  2. Change out round door knobs for lever handles
  3. Measure and install commercial pull-out drawers and shelves in kitchen
  4. Increase lighting, particularly installing night lights
  5. Put non-skid rug pads under all rugs
  6. Install suction cup hand holds in shower/tub (temporary measure – and check regularly to make sure firmly attached – great for travel to make hotel bathrooms safer) or metal grab bars for tub (for example: Moen LR2308W Home Care 12" Suction Balance Assist Bathroom Safety Hand Grip, available on Amazon)
  7. Install a freestanding shower seat or a transition seat in tub
  8. Install a pull out hand held showerhead
  9. Install free standing toilet stand rails or rails that attach to the toilet (for example: Drive Medical Stand Alone Toilet Safety Rail, available on Amazon)
  10. Install toilet seat riser
  11. Install free standing portable toilet
  12. Install toilet roll dispenser that has a lift-up arm or L shape or free-standing
  13. Install bed rails on bed frame or add risers to angle bed (for GERD)
  14. Install transition strips between floors of different types or heights
  15. Install tilting mirrors
  16. Install Alexa or some other “smart home” components if desired (devices collect personal data so there may be privacy and security concerns)
  17. Play an active role in any remodel design – in addition to holding down costs dependent upon selected finishes/hardware -  try and not move walls, plumbing, or electrical systems. Try and use existing footprint of room (leave the toilet, sinks and bath drains in place). Enlarge doorways through removal of door frame, use barn door slider or expandable hinges for door to allow walker through.  

Changes for which a plumber, electrician or general contractor may be needed:

  1. Install a faucet with a lever handle and pull out sprayer
  2. Change out wall light switches for easier to use type
  3. Change placement of electrical outlets
  1. Install and connect “smart home” features if desired (devices collect personal data so there may be privacy and security concerns)
  1. Replace flooring (e.g. laminate, tile or wood)
  2. Suggest getting a general contractor if multiple changes are required and the changes have to be coordinated (e.g. major remodel of bathroom or kitchen). Compare costs of obtaining inputs (appliances/flooring/faucets, etc.) yourself vs having them provided by contractor. Suggest regularly checking on contractors and politely asking questions if necessary.

Remodeling your bathroom – some things you may wish to consider:

  1. Do you need a bathtub or just a walk-in shower? Try and keep the same “footprint” for electrical and plumbing to reduce costs, keep cabinets if possible or use standard sizes if possible.
  2. Wide entrances to accommodate a walker, non-skid tile flooring, hidden hand grabs that double as towel or shower head holders, hand held shower heads that are also adjustable
  3. Higher toilets, hidden hand grabs in toilet roll holder and/or temporary portable rails
  4. Cabinet configuration and height, as well as placement of sink, and ability to remove cabinet doors
  5. D shaped handles
  6. Tilting mirrors
  7. Lever faucets

Remodeling your kitchen – some things you may wish to consider:

  1. Try and keep the same “footprint” for electrical and plumbing to reduce costs
  2. Lever pull out faucet
  3. D shaped drawer handles
  4. Pull outs for cabinets and pull downs for upper cabinets
  5. Making microwave and dishwasher easily accessible (e.g., don’t place microwave above stove top)
  6. Cabinet configuration and perhaps multiple heights, as well as placement of sink, and ability to remove cabinet doors - keep cabinets or use standard sizes if possible
  7. Sufficient accessible electrical outlets for regularly used appliances (e.g., electric can opener) to be left plugged in
  8. Consider which type of stove top is most appropriate for your situation (e.g., induction or smooth surface)
  9. Consider which refrigerator configuration is most appropriate (e.g., side by side refrigerators allow placement of frequently used items at a convenient height).

 

Aging in Place – The Woodlands may be able to help you with general advice regarding finding and selecting contractors, but does not recommend specific individuals or companies or which specific renovations you should make. Examples of products given are not a recommendation of the product.