By Dave Carevich
Your house is more than bricks, wood, and metal—it's your home, and you want to stay there for the rest of your life. Thanks to the numerous senior-friendly additions available today, you can make sure your house is your home for a lifetime.
Locate Risky Areas
Your home probably has a few places that have always been risky. Whether it's a step that leans a little too far to one side or a doorway with an elevated threshold, these are the first areas you should address when making your home more senior-friendly.
Some common problem areas are:
- Bathrooms: Many bathrooms have tubs that are too high or showers that have an edge that are not comfortable or safe to step over.
- Doorways: The threshold of a doorway should generally be flush with the ground on either side, but this isn't always the case.
- Kitchens: Worn-down or slippery tile can be difficult to navigate safely, and stovetops, ovens, and other outdated appliances are not always user-friendly or safe.
- Stairways: Not only can it be exhausting to go up and down those steps over and over every day, steep staircases also present a dangerous fall risk for seniors.
Each home is unique, so there may be areas you're not comfortable in that aren't mentioned here. Once you've figured out where your specific risk areas are, you can start making plans to fix them.
Easy Home Additions for Enhanced Safety
There are a number of additions that can be made to a home to make it more senior-friendly, and help eliminate or work around the dwelling's risk areas. Whether you're looking for easier mobility or more comfort, there's usually something that can be done to make your life easier and let you continue to live where you're happiest.
Some common additions include:
- Walk-in showers and tubs: A walk-in shower or tub eliminates the problem of having to step up over the edge of a tub or shower that's too high; reducing the risk of falling in a slippery setting. Walk-in tubs or tubs with slide-down walls (which allow a person to sit down and swing their legs into the tub) make getting in and out of much safer. Walk-in showers are flush with the floor and have no lip to step over, and they can include non-slip tiles and built-in benches to make showering easier. Shower stalls can also be outfitted for wheelchair use.
- Handrails and grab bars: Typically placed in hallways or bathrooms, handrails and grab bars are also a good idea for some kitchens. Having a grab bar in risky areas greatly reduces the chance of a fall or injury from slipping.
- Non-skid strips and decals: These are probably already in place in your bathtub, but they should also be placed in other areas where the floor is slippery. Suggested locations include stairways, foyers, kitchen floors and, of course, bathrooms.
- Stair lifts: For seniors who have mobility issues or who live in bi-level homes that don't cater to their needs, a stair lift is a great addition that can make everyday life easier. Going up and down the stairs can be exhausting and dangerous for an aging adult, but stair lifts turn this chore into a simple sit-down task that eliminates the risk of falling down a steep staircase.
- Home elevators: Residential elevators are great for homes that have three or more stories. Although a home elevator might seem extravagant, it doesn't have to be, and can offer ease of mobility like nothing else. These elevators can be designed large enough to house a wheelchair, power chair or scooter, allowing you to use your preferred mobility device on every level of your home.
- New fixtures: The process of making a home more senior-friendly should also include changing out certain fixtures, such as light switches and doorknobs, to ones that are easier to reach, grasp and use. Try using rocker switches for your lights and replacing round doorknobs with lever handles instead.
Leave Upgrades to the Professionals
Once you're sure of what you need to make your home safer, it's time to seek out a professional. Ask family, friends, neighbors or colleagues who have had similar renovations done for their recommendations on contractors. Contact your local home builders' association or remodelers' council, and keep an eye out for these professional designations:
- Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS)
- Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR)
- Graduate Master Remodeler (GMR)
Select a professional who has plenty of experience with your type of project and is willing to meet your needs. Ask for a written estimate of the work to be done, but never forget that the lowest price doesn't always promise success.
Every Situation Has a Solution
Your needs are unique. If you find yourself faced with a problem or challenge that you're not sure how to handle, don't assume there's no way to fix it. There are home additions to help with everything, from showers that run too hot to floors that are too cold. If you need it, there is someone capable of making the necessary changes to fix it for you. Don't be afraid to ask.
Dave Carevich has been actively involved in promoting expert solutions and use of the accessibility products the company distributes, installs and services at McKinley Elevator . Dave is a graduate of the University of Southern California and has been serving his industry for many years.