Want to live in your home for the rest of your life? Boost your odds by “future-proofing” now. Older adults who are most likely to remain in their homes have successfully arranged their houses and lives in ways that maximize their ability to weather the physical and practical setbacks often associated with getting older – setbacks that can make living independently more challenging.
Here are seven ingredients you’ll want to have in place in order to age in place:
Sure you can get up and down stairs easily now. And sure, many spry octogenarians can do the same. But what if you break a bone and require extended bed rest? What if you become confined to a wheelchair? It’s possible to convert a downstairs room to a bedroom, but not so easy to live on one floor if the only shower is on an upper floor.
Think ahead about how you can convert to all-on-one-floor living, should the need arise. You may need to remodel to add a full bath on the ground level, for example, or insert a door to provide privacy in a downstairs room.
The living space also needs to be all on one level. Split-level homes can be problematic because wheelchairs and walkers can’t easily navigate from one room to the next.
One’s risk of falling increases with age, often due to medications or certain health conditions. Installing secure grab bars and wall-to-wall carpeting (or bare wood floors, no throw rugs) are smart safety upgrades that will help you avoid broken hips – one of the most common reasons older adults are forced to leave their homes.
Familiarize yourself with the basics of bathroom safety and other home care safety, and start to slowly make your home safer for future needs.
Don’t overlook good lighting. Dark hallways and burned-out bulbs are a common contributor to accidental falls. Did you know an 85-year-old needs about three times as much light as a 15-year-old does to see the same thing?
Sure you can reach tall cupboards, stacked washer-dryers, and back burners easily now. But it’s likely that won’t always be the case. Even something as simple as a doorknob may be difficult to open if you develop arthritis or other disabilities.
At least one lower countertop, a taller toilet, and a front- (rather than top-) loading washer and dryer raised up from floor level are all examples of slightly modified household items that become easier to use later in life.
Lever-type door handles, paddle faucets, and curbless showers make these devices easy to use even in the event of arthritis or other disabilities affecting mobility.
Familiarize yourself with the principles of universal design, for a home you can live in forever – bringing together safety, convenience, and style for residents of any age.