The concept of keeping your home into retirement and skipping out on a senior-friendly community isn’t just an emerging trend—it’s become a widely popular option. In fact, AARP reports that 90 percent of Americans 65 or older plan to stay in their homes as they age. This movement is so widespread it even has its own phrase, known as “aging in place.”
But whether retirement is in the next year or 10 years from now, you’re most likely going to have to make some changes to accommodate your physical needs as you get older. If you plan to age in place, home modifications may be needed to ensure you and/or your spouse live comfortably in this next phase.
Below are steps you can take to stay in your home without breaking the bank.
1. Have at least one no-step entryway. Moving from your car to the front door should be a walk in the park. Meaning, no steps or obstacles impeding your movement. It’s fine to have a couple entrances with steps, but if you or your guests use a wheelchair or generally have problems with the lower half of their body, at least one no-step entry is a necessary aging in place precaution.
2. Turn your home into a slip-proof haven. Evaluate your home’s existing floors, especially tile and hardwood. Throw rugs are a recipe for trips and slips on a hard surface, so getting rid of them is a good idea. Then test your kitchen and bathroom floors. Do they have enough resistance to prevent you from slipping? If not, start looking for new flooring that would provide greater traction. A floor rating of 0.6 or higher meets the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines.
3. Create an accessibility-first bathroom. Some of the most common aging in place home modifications happen in the bathroom. Since bathrooms are generally the smallest room in the house, getting in and out easily needs to be a top priority. Make sure your walls can accommodate handle bars both in the shower and outside. Speaking of the shower, a curbless one is ideal to accommodate both a wheelchair or someone with impaired legs or hips. This gives you the ability to enter and exit the shower without stepping over anything.
4. A functional kitchen is a happy kitchen. When it comes to countertops, a variety of heights is optimal to make it useful for different ages and abilities. As you age, it may be a struggle to stand upright while preparing meals, so investing in a utility chair or stool is money well spent. Getting pull-out cabinet drawers and organizers will make it much easier to access kitchenware, without having to reach and sift through unorganized traditional cabinet shelves.
A good idea is to take inventory of your kitchen items before making these changes.
5. Take your master bedroom down a floor. If you have a spare bedroom on the first floor, you may want to turn that into your master bedroom. Access to your bedroom without having to walk up a flight of stairs makes your day-to-day living much safer and more convenient.
But what happens if you don’t have a first-floor room that could conceivably be turned into your new bedroom? A stair lift would allow you to remain on the second floor, while making it easier to travel up and down the stairs. This option is much more cost effective, than, say, building a whole new first-floor bedroom.
6. Enhance (and maybe automate) your lighting. The brighter your home the better. Whether it's natural or artificial light, having rooms bright and vibrant (particularly your kitchen and living room), will make reading and performing daily tasks much easier. If you plan to add lighting, consider putting lamps or switches low enough to easily turn on, especially if you’re in a wheelchair.
Motion-sensor lighting is a great option when you cannot physically reach switches anymore or if you simply want the convenience of walking into an illuminated room.
If you love your home and your surroundings so much so that buying a new home is not on your radar, then aging in place the right way will set you up perfectly for years to come.
In need of some extra cash to pay for some of these home improvements? Don’t sweat it. Tap into your home’s equity with a cash-out refinance.