Create a forever home
Getting older is part of life, but the key is to do it your way with your independence and autonomy intact. If you want to stay in your home longer, now is the time to prepare for the current trend called “aging in place,” where staying in your existing home rather than moving into a retirement community maintains or improves your quality of life.
An AARP survey found that nearly 90 percent of people 65 and older want to stay in their current homes or “age in place.” But a 2016 study by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies found that fewer than half of homeowners over 55 plan to remodel or renovate in the coming years or are focused on making their homes friendlier for the golden years.
We have news for you – the time to do renovation projects to help you age comfortably is when you don’t need those features yet. If you wait until something happens, it costs you more, and the outcome may not be as attractive or effective. Although home modifications for aging in place may seem overwhelming, many things on the shortlist are potentially DIY projects.
Certified Interior Designer Nancy Schmitz is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist with Live-Safe and has the following tips for gracefully preparing to age in place in style. You can prepare without making your home look like you need help.
1. Handle it
Don’t let arthritis or fine motor skills be an issue later on. Change your door knobs to lever handles, install sensor faucets in the kitchen and main bathroom, and change your light switches to toggle switches. Our favorites are Lutron Diva switches.
2. Taking care of business
The bathroom can be a challenging area to navigate when we age. A pull-down shower seat is a stylish option that others won’t notice. Be sure your toilets are at comfort height, which is between 17-19 inches. Install attractive grab bars in your bathroom to reduce the risk of falling. If you are not ready for grab bars, put studs in place during your current renovations so that re-opening a wall will not be required later.
3. The only way
Doorways and entrances can become problematic as we age. Install 36-inch doorways for accessibility, and make sure you can move through your spaces easily. In the bathroom try a zero- or no-threshold shower entrance.
4. Reach for the stars
There is no need to reach far to obtain your belongings. Install pullouts, lighting and accessible drawers in closets and cabinetry to make it easy. Electric or manual pull-downs and valet bars are a must.
5. Take some advice
To find someone who specializes in helping you with your home, consult the National Association of Home Builders. The organization provides a directory of remodeling professionals who have completed the coursework to be certified aging-in-place specialists. AARP also has an aging-in-place checklist.