As people age, even navigating stairs or getting into a bathtub can be a dangerous experience. Without special adjustments to accommodate changing needs, familiar and comfortable homes can become death traps.
However, it's possible to make your home safer and increase the chances you'll be able to age in place. Aging in place remodelling projects have become big business-and could be a good idea for your home. Here are a few things to think about.
Consider an Aging in Place Specialist. Aging in place specialists are people who consult with construction companies and homeowners in remodelling homes for the needs of older adults. Some contractor's work with people certified in aging in place design and remodelling; the National Association of Homebuilders and Home Innovation Research Labs offer a Certified Aging in Place Specialist credential for experts in the field. If you are considering making adjustments to your home, ask your construction company if they work with a certified aging-in-place specialist.
Know the modifications you need. Aging in place remodelling adjustments could be as simple as adding bars in the bathroom and night-lights in the hallways-or as complex as installing elevators or moving your master bedroom and bathroom downstairs.
Some possible remodelling projects include:
- Widening hallways to accommodate walkers or wheelchairs.
- Adding bars to the toilet and the bath or shower.
- Adding no-slip floors to your kitchen and bathrooms.
- Putting all shelves within reach in the kitchen.
- Adding a bathroom or bedroom to a lower level.
- Installing night lights in hallways leading from the bedroom to the bathroom.
- Installing hand railings on stairs.
- Installing light switches on both the top and bottom of the stairs.
- Installing an electric chairlift for stairs.
- Replacing outdoor steps with ramps.
- Installing a Medical Alert System.
Choose the right construction company. Not all construction companies have experience in remodelling for seniors who want to age in place. Find out from your local hospital or health care facility, friends who have undergone similar remodelling efforts, and online to find construction companies with specific experience in this area.
Find small things you can do to make your home safer. While a more extensive remodelling project is definitely important to consider, there are several things you can do at no or very little cost, without hiring a contractor. These include:
- Programming emergency numbers into your phone
- Getting rid of throw rugs that bunch up underfoot
- Setting your water heater's maximum temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Removing any clutter or small furniture that presents danger of tripping
- Moving your furniture to give yourself room to maneuver easily
- Putting a lamp close to your bed
Remodelling your home is only part of the picture. Many people have difficulty aging in place because they're isolated-and can't get the help they need grocery shopping, getting to doctors' appointments, and more. Check for local resources that can provide help for you as you grow older. The National Aging In Place Council http://www.ageinplace.org/, which has local chapters in a number of states, is a great place to start looking.