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Remodel Your Home to Age in Place

remodel-your-home-to-age-in-placeIf you are one of the millions of seniors committed to aging in place and enjoying your home for the long term, it’s imperative to take steps now to reduce common risks around your home. Fortunately for independent-minded seniors, updating an old house for safety is fairly easy – and affordable.

Prevent Common Home Injuries

One of the biggest risks to our health as we age is falling or tripping. According to the National Institutes of Health, most falls in the home are not due to activities we consider risky or dangerous; they happen as we go about our normal day-to-day activities.

Although there are tripping hazards throughout any house, there are also many simple, corrective measures you can do yourself (or pay a professional to fix for a moderate amount if you are on a budget).

Updating an Old House’s Bathroom

For many seniors, the bathtub or shower can be a source of comfort and rest. There is no reason for that to change as mobility issues creep up. Just because it’s more difficult to step in and out of a tub doesn’t mean you have to give up on bubble baths and soothing showers.

Installing a walk-in bathtub   can help to eliminate challenges that many seniors face when using traditional tubs: The risk of falling in the bathtub is usually associated with seniors having to step over a high tub wall, slipping on its smooth surface or a loss of balance.  A walk-in minimizes all of these risks because its watertight entrance makes getting in and out of the tub relatively risk-free.

Similarly, traditional shower stalls can also be problematic for seniors. Not only do they increase the risk of slipping, but some seniors find standing in a shower uncomfortable as they age. Purchasing a shower stool may offer some degree of safety and relief, but this option isn’t ideal for narrow or smaller showers. With this in mind, you may want to consider installing a shower designed with seniors in mind. Modern construction makes this upgrade is more affordable than ever. Check in with a qualified installer for more information.

Finally, putting grab bars near the tub, shower and toilet is another affordable method to minimized the risk of falls. A good handyman can strategically place the bars to help prevent accidents.

Updating an Old House’s Kitchen

If cooking is a central part of the day for you or a loved one, but if forgetfulness is a concern, consider proactively reducing fire risk in the kitchen.

Fires are commonly caused by grease on burners, worn electrical cords and from cloth mitts or dishtowels that get too close to heat. Smart stoves and automatic shut-off burner valves are improvements may be worth considering. Be sure to also keep a working fire extinguisher in the kitchen.

To make certain it’s functioning, check the extinguisher’s pressure gauge every month to ensure it is in the green zone (functional). As a rule of thumb, if any part of the extinguisher is cracked or broken, replace it.

aging-in-place-remodeling-kitchen-in-copy-imageBe sure to examine electrical cords for all appliances – but particularly the appliances that are older. If the cord is frayed, cracked or wires are showing through the protective, outer coating, err on the side of safety and replace the item.

If a kitchen remodel is in the budget, consider reconfiguring drawers so that storage is within easy reach. This eliminates high storage cabinets and the need to climb a step stool to reach commonly used items. No matter how safe and sturdy, using a step stool can increase the risk of falling.

If you are remodeling an old house on a budget and reconfiguring drawers is too costly, consider hanging pots, pans and mitts from hooks and using metal racks to store food staples on counters as a temporary solution. 

Remodeling an Old Home That’s Multi-Level

Uneven and broken stairs are common cause for falls according to the Centers for Disease Control. The dangers are compounded if there isn’t a sturdy, secure handrail nearby. Even if the steps appear fine, your safety is worth the time to have a skilled carpenter, contractor or qualified handyman examine the stairs and handrails to ensure they are safe.

Installing a lift chair or home elevator are even safer options to move between floors. Many in-home elevators and chairs are moderately priced and can be installed without requiring major remodeling.

If you choose to have an elevator placed in your home, it’s important to look for safety features such as …

  • Phone connection to your landline
  • Sensors that alert you to obstructions above and below the cab
  • An emergency feature that allows you to manually lower or exit the cab

These are only a few of the items to look for. For a more comprehensive list, check out Buying a Home Elevator.

Updating Lighting in Your Old House

If hallways seem darker than they used to, it may be due to diminished eyesight. If you or a loved one plan on aging in place safely, increasing the light throughout the home might be a good move.

In addition to strategically placing nightlights in frequently traveled areas, increase the lightbulb wattage in lamps and overhead lights to make hallways and rooms brighter. Also, check with a lighting manufacturer to find out about energy-efficient, low-risk lighting options. Or consult a qualified handyman to see what an entire lighting upgrade for your home would cost.

Want to know more?

These are just a few of the simple ways to update an old house to minimize the risk of injury. If you’re intent on aging in place and living safely in your home for years to come, download our comprehensive guide, Safe Home. Happy Home. If you have questions about any of the information in this article, or the steps you should take, please feel free to call us at 800-814-3574.