Aging in Place
Aging in place is a priority for many older adults. Luckily, there are some easy, inexpensive modifications you can make that will improve your home’s accessibility and help you maintain your independence longer. The AARP HomeFit Guide provides tips and instructions for optimizing your home’s safety as you age. The best time to make these changes is now, before your existing situation becomes hazardous.
Replace Knob-Style Handles
For those suffering from arthritis, knob-style door handles can be difficult to use. Lever-style handles, on the other hand, simply need to be pushed down rather than grasped and twisted. They can be installed cheaply and easily on doors throughout the home. Similarly, knobs on cabinets can be replaced with D-shape handles and pulls, which are easier to use.
Install a Handheld Showerhead
Replacing standard, fixed showerheads with handheld versions makes showering more accessible, regardless of your mobility level. Adjustable-height showerheads are further beneficial because they allow users to raise or lower the showerhead to an ideal height for either standing or sitting. Choosing a lightweight showerhead with a long hose makes bathing easier to navigate.
Switch Out Faucets
Lever-style faucets are superior to knob-style faucets for older adults because they require less dexterity to use. Better still are light-touch or sensor faucets, which simply require a tap or wave of the hand to turn on and off. As an added bonus, low-touch and no-touch options are more hygienic, no matter your age, to prevent the spread of germs.
Invest in a Walk-in Shower
As we age, standard shower and tub combos can become increasingly difficult (and dangerous) to use. While this is a pricier upgrade, installing a walk-in shower is one of the most valuable projects you can do in your home. Having a walk-in shower with a low threshold will make bathing easier for most older adults, and a no-step entrance makes it universally accessible for all, regardless of mobility needs.
While renovating your entire kitchen can be a major expense, there are some small changes you can make that will create a big impact. It’s always best to store frequently used items between hip and shoulder height, but you can make your lower cabinets more accessible by installing pullout shelves. By adding extra shelves to your upper cabinets, you can make items easier to reach without the need for a step stool. Additionally, using pull-out containers for trash and recycling makes removing them much easier.
Add Extra Lighting
Installing additional lighting in your home will make it easier to navigate. Ensure that hallways and stairwells are well-lit, and consider installing motion-sensor lights that eliminate the need to find a light switch when entering a dark room. Task lighting over the kitchen sink, stove, and other work areas will increase visibility. Additionally, rocker switches are easier to use than toggle-style light switches. Swapping them out is also an inexpensive and easy project.
Switch to LED Bulbs
Climbing a ladder to change a burnt-out lightbulb can be difficult and dangerous. Switching out your standard incandescent bulbs for LED bulbs significantly reduces the frequency that they need to be changed. LED bulbs are energy efficient and can last up to 50 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
Install Bathroom Grab Bars
Grab bars (also known as assist bars) are used to prevent falls and make it safer to navigate the shower, bathtub, or toilet. By installing grab bars in your bathroom, those with balance or mobility issues can benefit from added support. It’s important to note that grab bars are distinct from standard towel bars in that they are designed and installed to support significantly more weight.
Raise Toilet Seats
Those who have difficulty sitting down or standing up from a seated position can benefit from a raised toilet seat. Standard toilet seats have a 15-inch height from floor to top, but installing a raised version can add several inches, making it easier and safer to use the toilet. Comfort-height toilet seats typically range between 17 to 19 inches from floor to top.
Add Non-Slip Flooring
Falls are common among older adults, and installing non-slip flooring or mats in your home can help prevent them. For bathrooms, flooring made from rubber, non-slip vinyl, or cork can provide added traction. While it can be beneficial to replace flooring altogether, a simpler and more affordable option is to add cushioned, slip-resistant mats to high-risk areas such as in front of the kitchen sink.
Install a Ramp
Aging adults can benefit from having a no-step entrance to their home. While ramps are, of course, essential for people who use wheelchairs or have significant mobility issues, they can also be universally beneficial. While installing a permanent access ramp can be an expensive upgrade, temporary ramps installed over top of your stairs are more affordable. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifies that ramps should have a 5-degree incline to meet safety standards.
Take Advantage of Smart Technology
With today’s innovations in technology, many simple home tasks can be automated and controlled through voice commands or by using a smartphone or tablet. Tech-savvy older adults can benefit from a host of automated features that can be managed via WiFi. By using smart technology or home assistance devices, users can set reminders, control lighting, adjust thermostats, play music, lock and unlock doors, and more—all without rising from their seat.
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