Simple Fixes With Big Returns

Most Baby Boomers want to age in place. The percentage is now almost 90 percent, according to a University of Michigan national poll released in April 2022. But according to AARP’s housing expert Rodney Harrell, only about 1 percent of homes in the United States are conducive to accomplishing that goal. So how do we transform our home sweet home into a space we can remain in as we age? And does everything take lots of time and money?

It’s Universal!

There are plenty of articles online — from “Ask This Old House” advice pieces to journal articles and multi-page reports — that suggest ways homes can be updated. These include everything from large-scale modifications to remove raised thresholds, widen hallways and doors, and remodel kitchens and bathrooms. Most of the ideas are based on the principals of universal design — creating space that is usable by all people, regardless of height, medical issues or mobility issues. I wrote about this a couple of months ago in describing the growing trend in creating urban centers: communities created with all people in mind that feature street, business, and housing designs allowing for wheelchairs, mobile scooters, parents with strollers, walkers, and more. Well, universal design principles also work in creating a safe and welcoming space for aging in place.

But not all modifications that can help you age in place take the form of huge renovations. You have to start somewhere, and there are things you can do now — perhaps even before the holidays — to start on the path to creating your “forever home” at home!

5 Things To Do Right Now

Here are five modest changes you can do now to make your home more aging friendly:

  1. Install grab bars in bathrooms, showers, and even in entryways where it might not yet be possible to eliminate a step (e.g., garage entrances to homes).  No longer do grab bars have to look bulky and hospital-like. With a little shopping around, you can find handsome handrails and handles that blend into any décor.  
  2. Switch out doorknobs, faucet handles and cabinet knobs. Change doorknobs and faucet handle to lever-style versions, which are much easier for people with arthritis to negotiate. And replace the knobs on cabinets and drawers with pulls. Again, shop around for styles/finishes that will dress-up the hall or room where the hardware is added.
  3. Higher electrical outlets and lower light switches. Move or add electrical outlets farther up the wall. Counter height outlets are a good example of a common modification in kitchens. People with mobility or other health issues may not be able to reach outlets near the floor. Moving or installing them higher on the wall allows full access. In the same vein, lower light switches slightly so that they can be easily reached from a seated position.  Not every outlet needs to be moved. You are asking the electrican to give you a few strategically placed outlets — like two at the kitchen counter, one next to the bed and another near the reading chair in the living room. And while you’ve got the electrican’s attention, let’s get those light switches replaced with easy-on, easy-off push buttons!
  4. Increase lighting and automate it. More light improves safety. So add lamps and look into ways to increase the amount of natural light in your home. Simple smart home software and gadgets also can be added to increase the amount of light — via timers or voice commands — while keeping the electric bill under better control.
  5. Seating for shower and tub. A shower chair — perhaps even foldable for storage when not in use — is a big help when you find standing for long periods of time difficult. Using these stools can be tricky, so be sure to do a dry-run or two when another person can watch and/or offer guidance.

Once you start with easy-to-accomplish modifications such as these, you can gradually put a plan in place for the more time-consuming renovations that will truly keep your home safe for years to come. Remember, these modifications are not just for you. You are making your home welcoming for all of your guests — a place that demonstrates your thoughtfulness about mobility issues any of your guest may have. 

 Start the long-term plans now and you’ll be able to thrive at home during your Third Chapter of life!

Third Chapter Living celebrates, challenges, informs and promotes conversations about housing issues affecting the Baby Boomer Generation. Check out our website to learn more about our work. Our Facebook Group is a resource center with tips and recommendations on navigating those issues. Share experiences with others who are looking for Housing Downsizing Tools that allow them to successfully age-in-place.

1 Comments

  1. Bonnie Boren on November 15, 2022 at 10:52 pm

    Excellent advice and tips. Thank you.

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