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The Best Advice for Seniors Wanting to Stay Home and Age in Place

The Best Advice for Seniors Wanting to Stay Home and Age in Place

Making your home safe and accessible

Ensuring your home will meet your needs as you grow older is tougher than it sounds.  Even if you’re currently aging well, circumstances can change quickly.  What happens when it’s hard to climb stairs or when your vision is fading?  A few modifications can make it easier to stay safe and comfortable at home during your golden years. 

Evaluate your Property

Taking a close look at your abode will help you decide what alterations will make life easier as you get older.  While we all age differently, there are several considerations that make a home accessible for seniors.  You want to look at two general areas of criteria: ease of maintenance and ease of accessibility.  For instance, you’re generally best off with a floor plan that allows living on one floor, preferably the ground floor.  High thresholds, stairs and steps are tripping hazards and are difficult to navigate if mobility is impaired.  If your home is a single-story, you will also enjoy easier home maintenance.  Here are some of the other items to consider when evaluating your home for aging in place:

  • A low-maintenance exterior, such as brick or vinyl siding.
  • Easy-to-manage landscaping, such as slow growing shrubbery. 
  • A bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and laundry on your ground floor.
  • Wide hallways with at least thirty-six inches of space between walls and doorways.
  • Great lighting, including nightlights and task-lighting in work areas.
  • Lever-style door knobs and faucet handles. 
  • Walkways should be smooth, offer good traction, and be free of slipping and tripping hazards both inside and outside your home.
  • Considering installing a generator to help power your home illuminated and comfortable should you lose power during a storm.


Modifications to Consider

Bathroom.  The most important room to consider modifying is the bathroom you will normally use.  Bathrooms are a naturally hazardous area with the combination of water and smooth surfaces.  Your primary bathroom should be on the ground floor so you can access it in a wheelchair or walker, even temporarily.  A walk-in shower with grab bars and a seat makes bathing easier, and no ledges to step over reduces the risk of falling when entering and exiting.  CNBC recommends installing non-slip flooring as a key to reducing your risk of a bathroom-related injury.  Look for tiles with good friction or ridges. Also installing a raised toilet dramatically improves bathroom safety and makes it much easier to get up and down. These toilets come with an elegant look, dual-flush mechanism, and slow-closing toilet seat.

Kitchen.  We spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so it’s another key room for modifications.  A little more space between islands and cabinets can make a world of difference as you age.  Forty-two inches of clearance, as opposed to the traditional thirty-six inches allows easier navigation in a wheelchair or with a walker.  Varying cabinet height can also be a boon, especially to allow for food prep in a seated position.  Purchase new appliances with easy-to-read and easy-to-reach controls, as well as doors you won’t struggle to open if you have limited mobility or strength. 


Paying for Modifications

Depending on your situation, you may qualify for assistance in funding your home modifications.  According to Huffington Post, there are a number of potential options available, including Medicaid waivers, state, local and federal funding programs, veterans assistance, reverse mortgages, and funds from non-profit organizations. Another option worth considering is a cash out refinance. Using some of the equity in your home can be a great way to afford home improvements. Whether it’s a VA refinance cash out or a conventional cash out, you can get a new loan, most likely with better terms than what you already have.


Home For Your Future

If you’re a senior wishing to age in place, you should consider home modifications to meet your future needs.  Carefully evaluate your home, make appropriate changes, and explore options for funding as needed.  With good planning, you can stay safe and comfortable throughout your golden years.

- Claire Wentz, caringfromafar.com


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