Many older adults want to stay in their homes, even after retirement. They want to age in place. Wanting to age in place is nothing new. Many older adults do not want to move out and “start all over.” In a poll done by the Associated in 2011, over 50 percent of boomers said they were unlikely to move to a new area upon retirement. In addition, in an article published by Forbes, Richard Eisenberg highlights that four in ten older adults plan to stay in their current homes during their retirement according to survey results from the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Survey.

Having the desire to stay in our homes does not often give us a clear picture of what we need to do to accomplish that step.  However, some middle-agers and boomers have already had a head start as to planning and preparing for that next step in life.

In years past, older parents may not have intended to move out of their home, but never made the necessary changes to accommodate their physical limitations. In fact, many boomers have been caught off guard when elderly parents were too ill to care for themselves after an unexpected fall or illness. Sons or daughters have had to make home changes to assist parents who have moved in, or have been prompted to make adaptive changes at their parent’s home. Unfortunately, adaptive changes are often made after an illness has progressed, or after a debilitating stroke or injury has taken place.

Consider future needs when making changes. Don’t go out and build a two-story summer cottage for a loved one who has been recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s; although a sweet idea, it would not be a practical one.

In the long run, adaptive home modifications benefit both the patient and the caregiver and minimize injury risks.

Common Home Modifications and Changes

Making needed renovations has started earlier for some boomers who have made adjustments to accommodate elderly parents or spouse. Home modifications should make it easier for those who want to stay in their “forever home.” The following is a list of a few gradual home modifications to start considering:

1. Widening doorways to 36 inches or more will allow for the maneuverability of wheelchairs.

2. Hallways also need widening to accommodate wider wheelchairs.

3. Incorporating flooring that is non-slip, yet softer and kinder to joints helps all family members.

4. Removing old carpet from hallways and common areas will make future wheelchair transit easier. As we get older, cleaning and maintaining a non-carpeted floor will be less physically demanding

5. Removing throw rugs will help minimize fall risks for everyone.

6. Installing of sturdy safety bars in bathrooms will help prevent injury to those who are fall risks.

7. Including multilevel kitchen countertops when renovating older kitchens offers more opportunity to participate in food prep. Include counters where a wheelchair can slide into place with ease.

8. Making necessary entry changes and widening landing areas will provide for more room for those who are disabled.

9. Making sure entry steps and railings are in good form and share will lessen fall risks.

10. Consider removing or replacing wobbly outside stepping cobblestones.

Aging in place design concepts include making home renovations to accommodate the needs of someone who may be a fall risk or may have limited mobility. Some innovative home and building designers are now encouraging the universal building design concepts in newer constructions. The advantage of this design is that it is meant to accommodate a multigenerational family regardless of age and limitations. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) offers an interesting comparison of both aging in place home modification design and the universal design concept.

Senior Helpers wants to make sure all clients, and caregivers, including older adults and seniors are safe in their home environment, regardless of where they live and work. We encourage people to plan ahead for a more rewarding and productive ‘aging in place’ lifestyle.

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