Home Modifications for Aging in Place

Aging in place is the idea that you can grow old independently in the comfort of your own home rather than moving in with a family member or going to a retirement home. There are several benefits to this, from comfort to safety and the familiarity of being at home. 

Most people would prefer this option to the alternatives. However, many people forget to prepare their homes for the long-term. It is never to early to start planning for the future. After all, you want to make the changes now, not after you take a nasty fall. The sooner you start thinking about accessibility in your home, the more chances you have of aging safely and comfortably within it. 

Tackling Home Modifications

Unless you are a lifelong DIYer with a steady hand, you will probably not be doing any of the home modifications yourself. There are a few smaller jobs that you could easily ask a handy member of your family to do for you, including:

However, for bigger jobs, you will have to get a contractor. Professional modifications often made by the elderly include:

  • Tearing down walls and otherwise re-arranging the layout of a house for convenience
  • Installing height-adjusted toilets
  • Renovating a kitchen to make it more accessible; for instance, by making the colors more contrasting, bringing storage to eye level, and putting wheels on island counters so they can be moved out of the way
  • Installing a stair lift
  • Changing the flooring to a safer option

Hiring a Contractor

When hiring a contractor, ask your friends and family for a referral to make sure you get someone trustworthy. This Old House recommends holding both phone and face-to-face interviews with potential candidates, getting quotes from several options, and contacting past clients to make sure you get a high-quality service. You can also go online to check reviews and get price quotes from local contractors. 

Do note that seniors are at the highest risk of getting scammed by a contractor. Make sure you have a family member with you during these meetings, both to help you make the decisions and to discourage any dishonesty. 

You can also look for a contractor that is specialized to your needs as a senior. According to the New York Times, there are over 7,000 contractors credentialed by the National Association of Home Builders in their “Specialist Aging-in-Place” program. This is a small touch, but could make a big difference in how your contractor approaches the modifications. 

Buying or Renovating

Of course, there is another option. Instead of renovating your existing home to suit your needs as you grow older, you could look for a smaller home that fits a downsized lifestyle. This could get rid of clutter, avoid having to climb stairs, and maybe even save some money. You could move closer to your family, or move to an area with a more established senior community. Start by reviewing listings in your area to get an idea of what it might cost to buy a new home. 

Aging in place is a wonderful option that allows the elderly to continue living full, independent lives that feel familiar and comfortable. In order to allow yourself to do this, you should start looking into home modifications – or a smaller home – as soon as possible. Most of these changes are simple, non-intrusive, and may not even be noticeable until they are needed. Incorporate them into your home now, and you and your loved ones will be thankful in a few years’ time. 

Written by Claire Wentz (claire@caringfromafar.com)