Housing & Mortgage
Getting Your Home Ready for an Older You
Part 1: inexpensive fixes that can help you age-in-place
A desire to stay put is a strong retiree wish. AARP reports that nearly eight in 10 adults at least 50 years old want to stay in their home once they retire.
If you hope to age-in-place, or are an adult child of someone who does, there are small and big projects to make a home safe and cozy for aging residents.
Even if you’re decades from retiring, the sooner you tackle projects, the likelier you will be able to stay in your home longer. If you wait until an accident or illness makes you unable to scale the stairs, or navigate the bathroom on your own, you won’t have months to install fixes. That could lead to a move or time in a rehab facility.
Even if you’re a robust 40- or 50-something, any time you contemplate a renovation project, think about sneaking in some age-in-place design tweaks. Bathroom remodel? Do the level-in shower with room for a bench (or movable) seat now. Kitchen? Add a section of lower counter space where someone can sit to do kitchen prep. That will also be a hit with young grandchildren.
Another reason to do projects now: When you’re still working, you may find it easier to pay or get a loan for bigger-ticket remodeling.
Things you can hang on to
Check out HomeAdvisor’s free True Cost estimates; plug in your zip code for an estimate of local costs. That said, these numbers are only estimates. Your costs will depend on structural issues and quality of materials.
Lever-up. Gripping a classic doorknob or using a faucet can become a challenge for the arthritic. Door levers range in costs from $25 to more than $125 apiece.
Bathroom grab bars. The most popular age-in-place project, according to the National Association of Homebuilders. Useless if not installed properly; if you’re not sure, get help.
Add light. At age 60, retinas might take in one-third as much light as at 20. Lamps are good. But if you’re tackling remodeling projects now, don’t scrimp on lighting. The younger you mightn’t need under-cabinet countertop lighting in the kitchen. The older you will be glad it’s there. Consider installing switches to control hallway lights from all directions. Every dark step increases risk.
Replacing rugs with carpet. You love your hardwood floors with oriental rugs. But throw rugs and loose area carpets are a leading cause of falls for the elderly; floor mats (in hallways and bathrooms) are a big risk for hip fractures. Properly installed wall-to-wall carpeting is a lot safer. Installation is $750 to $2,500, says HomeAdvisor, plus the cost of carpet. Not ready? Make sure area rugs have non-slip backing or padding. That’s inexpensive and totally DIY.
Appliances. A front-loading washing machine reduces the need to lift wet heavy clothes. Placing the washer and dryer on a pedestal means less bending and lifting. A microwave at counter level will be accessible from a wheelchair. Choose a stove with controls at the front, not back.
Once you’ve knocked out the smaller projects that’ll make life more safe and more comfy for Future You, you can move on to the bigger stuff.