Aging-in-place remodeling has become a hot topic in recent years due to the increasing number of aging adults who want to remain in their homes as they age. As a result, an aging-in-place remodeling checklist has become a useful tool for homeowners who want to make their homes safer and more accessible for themselves or their loved ones.
Good nutrition, exercise, and superior medical care have helped many Baby Boomers stay in better physical and mental condition than their parents and grandparents. These aspects have also helped them live longer. But, like it or not, aging happens. The passage of time affects everyone’s vision, hearing, mobility, and more.
Previous generations may have looked forward to living in retirement communities, relaxing by the pool, joining a book club, or playing golf. But many of today’s retirement-aged Americans prefer to stay in their homes and consider a few aging-in-place remodeling projects instead.
Frankly, after all the hard work homeowners put into the upkeep of their residences, it’s no wonder they hope to live there as long as possible. However, most homeowners need to think farther into the future as to what modifications must be made for the physical changes that come with aging.
The solution to being able to live in your home longer is aging-in-place remodeling. By planning ahead, your home can be modified to keep it safe for everyone who lives there.
What is Aging in Place?
For the past ten years, reports from AARP show that 77% of adults over 50 have said they want to age in place. This means they prefer to stay in their homes instead of living in retirement communities, assisted living facilities, or nursing homes.
However, only 34% of adults realize they must remodel their residences to make them safe enough to remain there. Aging-in-place remodeling projects mean more than adding grab bars to the bathtub, installing brighter lights, or building a ramp to the entrance of your home.
Planning out all the necessary aging-in-place remodeling accommodations with a professional is worth the time and effort. There are ways to DIY several simple projects, but overall, working with a professional remodeling company will increase the likelihood of being able to stay home for a much longer time.
A Checklist For Aging in Place Remodeling
Most homes will require some remodeling projects and modifications to make them safer and more comfortable for seniors to age in place. But do you wonder how to make those changes while keeping it aesthetically pleasing? After all, you don’t want your residence to look like a nursing home.
Below is a simple checklist for projects you should consider regarding aging-in-place remodeling. After reviewing this list, you should contact a professional remodeling company for assistance.
Begin With Your Home’s Exterior
Make changes now and plan for the future. Your house should have the following:
- Low-maintenance landscaping.
- Easy to maintain siding (brick or vinyl).
- Easy access to deck, balcony, or patio heights. Eliminate steps to get in and out.
- Decide where a ramp can be installed for future mobility issues.
- The ramp should have a slope no greater than a one-inch rise for each 12-inch length, and add sturdy handrails.
- Provide a five-foot landing at the home’s entrance.
- Add two-inch curbs for safety on each side of the ramp.
The Overall Floor Plan for Aging in Place Remodeling
Not all homes can be modified enough to allow seniors to stay put. Think about what will need to be done if one or more of the residents will use a walker or wheelchair.
- Can a bedroom and full bath be added to the main floor if the house has two stories?
- Are all rooms on the same level with no steps between them?
- Do you have at least a 5’x5′ turning space in the living room, bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom to accommodate a wheelchair?
- Are all hallways and doorways well-lit and at least 36″ wide?
- Are all thresholds flush or at a maximum of ½” high?
- Can all doorknobs be changed to levers?
- Are there plenty of windows for natural light? If not, consider enlarging the current windows and lowering them for better views from a sitting position.
- Switch out windows for those with Low-E glass, triple-panes, and energy efficiency.
- Windows should have easy-to-operate hardware to open for fresh air and cross ventilation.
- Is the current HVAC energy-efficient and low maintenance? Are filters nearby for simple exchanging?
Your Home’s Entry
You want your home to remain warm and welcoming. But it’s best to make it easily entered by senior occupants and their visitors. Again, think about those with low vision or who use a wheelchair. How can you make it easier for them and you to get through the front door?
- Make sure the walkway to the front door is accessible and well-marked. Consider adding lights along the path.
- Keep bushes and landscaping well-trimmed and out of the way.
- Add exterior sensor lights that focus on the door and door lock.
- Offer at least one entry with no steps, and that is covered against the weather.
- The front door should be at least 36 inches wide.
- Add a lower peephole to use from inside if seated in a wheelchair.
- The doorbell should be well-lit and accessible.
- Use nonslip flooring in the foyer.
Garage or Carport Remodeling Needs
The freedom of driving is one of the top reasons why aging in place is preferred by most seniors. However, aging-in-place remodeling also means the potential for necessary modifications to the carport or garage. If the driver or a passenger uses a wheelchair or walker, here are a few things to think about:
- Add a ramp to the garage doorway, if needed.
- Add a strong handrail if there are steps.
- Some state building codes require the garage floor to be several inches below the entrance to the house for fume protection. To eliminate the need for a ramp or steps, the contractor can slope the entire garage floor from front to back.
- You need a five-foot minimum aisle between the wheelchair-accessible van and a standard car in the garage.
- To accommodate a van lift, build a wider-than-average carport.
- The door and ceiling height of the carport or garage may need to be at least nine feet tall to have enough room for a raised-roof van.
Necessary Interior Aging in Place Remodeling
Now that you’ve changed your residence’s exterior, it’s time to look inside. It’s important to remember that, as people age, they have more trouble seeing and hearing clearly, and their muscles get weaker, so they may need the aid of a walker or wheelchair. Additionally, skin will bruise, and bones may break more easily.
Be Aware of Flooring Choices
Slips, trips, and falls are the most common accidents in the home, especially with seniors. Here are a few ways to avoid them:
- Get rid of all throw rugs that can slide or curl underfoot.
- If there is a change in surface levels, use a color or texture contrast to indicate this.
- For easier wheelchair movement, use a low-density pile carpet (less than half an inch) with a firm pad.
- Choose non-glare, smooth, and slip-resistant surfaces like tile, vinyl flooring, cork, wood, etc.
Lifts, Elevators, and Stairways
As we age, it may become more challenging to move about. Monitor doorway thresholds and install a small ramp if interior floors have different heights. Even if a wheelchair isn’t necessary, it may be easier on hips and knees to use a ramp than going up and down a step or two all day.
Managing a full flight of stairs in two-story homes is much harder for those with sight and mobility issues. Here are several ways to make it easier.
- With good lighting, increase the visibility along stairs.
- Use contrasting or reflective strips at the top and bottom of the staircase to indicate a change in level.
- Paint or carpet the treads and risers in different colors to highlight each step.
- Install 1¼-inch diameter handrails on both sides of the staircase for a good grip.
Here are two additional ways to help seniors move from one level to another.
- Install a residential elevator in a closet, or make room on each floor.
- Install a stair lift. However, the stairway must be a minimum of four feet wide to allow enough space.
Safety, Security, Electrical, and Lighting for Aging in Place Remodeling
Our ability to see in darkened spaces and at night is increasingly limited as we age. Add illuminated light switch cover plates and motion-activated lighting for safety and convenience. Lighted outlets make it much easier for residents to see switches and plugs in a darkened room.
Consider moving outlets and light switches to a more convenient and accessible height. Lower light switches to make them reachable from a seated position and raise electrical outlets to avoid bending over to plug something in. Add switches and outlets to backsplashes, countertops, and islands in the kitchen.
Here are more ideas for the safety of all aging residents:
- Lights with at least two bulbs should be placed in vital locations (main exits, bathrooms, etc.). If one bulb burns out, there is still another.
- Electrical outlets should be placed 15 inches or higher from the floor and no more than 12 feet apart.
- Add light switches at each end of the hallway and the entrance to each room, so no one has to walk into a dark room or down a dark hallway.
- Thermostats, environmental controls, and light switches should be installed no more than 48 inches from the floor.
- Use rocker light switches for easy use.
- Install easy-to-read and see thermostats that can be pre-programmed for heating and air conditioning.
- Install a 911 switch and flashing porch light for first responders.
- The home can be wired with a security system to contact the police, fire, or an ambulance if necessary.
- For those with vision or hearing issues, use a visual or audible strobe light system to respond when the phone or doorbell rings or when CO2 or smoke detectors activate.
Aging in Place Remodeling for Bathrooms
The bathroom is one of the most dangerous places in the home for seniors. Wet floors, tubs, and shower stalls can make residents slip and fall easily; those with mobility issues may have trouble transferring from their wheelchair to the commode or shower seat, etc.
But simple aging-in-place remodeling renovations can make this room more convenient and much safer. For example, to minimize the chance of falls, add a comfort-height toilet seat, a shower seat, or consider installing a step-through bathtub.
Additionally, you may want to:
- Convert the bathtub into a walk-in shower. This will eliminate losing your balance as you step over the side of the tub. The walk-in/roll-in shower should be a minimum of 36″ wide and curbless.
- Install a permanent shower seat or a fold-down seat instead of setting a shower chair in the center of the bathtub.
- Add an adjustable or handheld showerhead with a 6-foot hose.
- Easy-to-reach tub and shower controls are important.
- Install a light inside the shower stall.
- Add bracing in the shower and tub and around the toilet. Install grab bars to the bracing to be sure it will support at least 250 to 300 pounds.
- Grab bars are essential to help pull up from a seating position. The bars also offer something to hold if the homeowner is feeling wobbly.
- Purchase a toilet 2½ inches higher than a standard toilet or add a comfort-height toilet seat.
- The toilet paper holder should allow for one-handed roll changing.
- At least one bathroom on the main level should be maneuverable with a 60″ turning radius for a wheelchair.
- Add various height counters or removable base cabinets for knee and wheel room.
- Roll-out shelves or drawers will make finding toothpaste, hair brushes, etc. easier in lower cabinets.
- Change faucets to pedal-controlled or lever handles for easier movement.
- Install anti-scald or thermostatic controls.
- Consider changing the countertop to one with rounded edges. This will prevent bruising and skin tears from bumping the corners.
- Bathroom floors can get very slippery. Some options to consider are natural stone, vinyl, tile, bamboo, and cork for better fall protection.
Kitchen Remodeling Ideas for Aging in Place
Independent living into your golden years means using appliances and cooking. While the kitchen is considered the home’s hub, and many genuinely enjoy cooking, it is also potentially dangerous. Not only due to slips and falls but also because of possible fires, splashed hot dishes, and more.
Aging-in-place remodeling for the kitchen will help a senior stay independent in a safe environment. Keep the below list in mind when planning your new kitchen layout. But first, here are some safer appliances to use:
- Many stoves now come equipped with automatic shut-offs and stove-top lights. This will prevent accidental fires and let the chef know when the burners and surface are too hot to touch.
- A cooktop fire suppressor will instantly stop a fire that erupts. It can be purchased with the stove or bought separately and installed later.
- Microwaves are a relatively safe way to cook. However, never use one above the stove. Reaching up and over the stove to retrieve cooked food poses the risk of hot or heavy items falling, splashing, and potentially scalding the homeowner.
Overall, for appliances, you should look for:
- Side-by-side refrigerator/freezer or with the freezer at the bottom.
- Easy-to-read controls.
- The microwave at counter height or installed in the wall at eye level.
- Wall ovens with side-swing doors.
- Cooktops with front controls and level burners.
- A raised dishwasher (12 to 15 inches) with push button controls.
- Consider a raised washer and dryer, and choose front-loading for both.
For the rest of the kitchen:
- Install rounded cornered countertops. This avoids sharp corners and potential bruising. Also, consider multiple work levels with removable lower cabinets to make things easier for those in wheelchairs.
- Add pull-out shelves and lights inside closets and cabinets for seniors with mobility and vision loss.
- In a pantry, add adjustable shelves for easier access.
- Install drawers and Lazy Susans in lower cabinets.
- Glass front cabinet doors help seniors more easily locate what they need.
- Add an accent color to the edge and front of the countertops to assist with visual orientation.
- Next to all appliances, have open counter space to place food or dishes.
- Design the kitchen with plenty of floor space: 60-inch diameter for turns and at least 36 inches for doorways and between the island and other workspaces.
- Consider loop handles instead of knobs for easier grip.
- Add pull-out spray faucets; levered or no-touch handles.
- Add bright task lighting in work areas.
Design Tech Remodeling
Do you want to age in place? The time to start planning is now. Aging in place can be accomplished for you or a family member.
The staff of Design Tech Remodeling will work with you to determine your future needs. They will offer suggestions, solve problems, and set a realistic budget for your aging-in-place remodeling project. Your dream home can be yours for many more years than you realize.
Located in Mequon, Design Tech Remodeling is a full-service home remodeler specializing in kitchens, bathrooms, and lower levels for residents across southeastern Wisconsin. Their team can create a luxurious and better-functioning home for you and your family now and in the future. Achieve your goals with their high-quality designs, innovative ideas, excellent craftsmanship, and unmatched customer service.