Home Improvements and Upgrades for Senior-Friendly Aging in Place

Aging in place is no longer a movement but a lifestyle.

Our senior loved ones want to live in the home of their choice as long as possible — hopefully the rest of their lives.

For some seniors it may mean living in a home that isn’t suited to the needs of an aging adult, putting them at risk.

Adjustments or even renovations may be needed to enable them to live safely in their homes, which could be aging around them and falling into disrepair.

Most homes simply won’t accommodate needs such as wheelchair access or senior shower time unless built with the needs of senior adults in mind.

Home renovation once was done primarily to improve resale value or upgrade features of a home but now it is fast becoming a means for seniors to remain in their homes safer and longer.

Renovation Statistics

A recent report from Home Advisor found that seniors wishing to age in place completed the following renovations:

  • 76% added grab bars to one or more rooms in the home
  • 64% added a ramp to the home’s entrance
  • 44% widened doorways
  • 35% added a bathroom on the home’s first floor
  • 30% added lever handles on doors

Repair and Renovation

In order for your senior to age in place in their current home, they may need to consider potential repairs and improvements.

  • Is their house safe for them to live without injury or illness?

Are the floors strong, the windows sealed, the front porch steps secure, the temperature controlled, is it free of mold or radon, the stair treads secure or other maintenance issues?

  • Is there adequate lighting to prevent accidents?

Are there wayfinding lights so that they can find their way to the bathroom at night? Is there enough light in the hallway or closets to avoid tripping? Is there enough footlight in the living area or kitchen to light tasks? Is there a porch light or light in the yard to see in the dark when coming and going or checking for intruders?

  • Do they have stairs that they will no longer be able to climb just to get to bed at night or to the bathroom?

Will they have to be able to climb stairways to get to bed at night or the bathroom or to do the laundry? What happens when they have mobility issues and can’t climb stairs? Is there a step into the house or to the garage?

  • Do they live nearby to family, friends and necessary shopping venues?

Are they close enough to family and friends to stay engaged and socialize? Will they need to have transportation to meet all their needs such as banking, shopping or medical care? Is anything within walking distance?

Can they get themselves from place to place? Is there public transportation available? Is there a family caregiver, friend or neighbor available to drive them wherever they need to go?

  • Is their doctor or hospital conveniently located to them in case of an emergency?

How far away is an ambulance or fire station? Is the hospital close in case of an emergency so that life saving treatment can be obtained? Is there a choice of doctors and specialists in their community to meet their individual medical needs or does it require travel to see a consultant to treat a specific condition?

  • Do they have access to a system to call help in an emergency such as a life line? If not, can this be installed in their home?

Does the community offer a lifeline system that they can use in the home in case of a fall or injury? Is there internet access available in their home to set up a Personal Emergency Response System (PERS)?

  • Can they get into and out of their house with a walker or wheelchair? Do they need a ramp built?

Does their home have easy access from the driveway, garage and front door? Can they get to the mailbox safely? Do they have a handrail at the front door? Are the steps and walkways in good repair or do they present a tripping hazard in all weather?

Do they live where snow or ice can impede their safe walking to the car or mailbox? Do they need a ramp to get in and out? Does the width of the front door accommodate a wheelchair or even a walker?

  • Are the bathrooms accessible? Do they need to install grab bars to make personal care safe?

Bathrooms can pose a serious threat to the safety of seniors. Is the door wide enough for safe passage? Are the floors free of trip hazards? Can you remove throw rugs? Can they get into the bath or shower safely or do they need a curbless shower? Can they use grab bars at the sink, toilet or shower?

Do they need a raised toilet seat? Do they need lever faucets? Do they need a different hot water setting to prevent scalding from overheated water? Do they need a shower chair or bench and a hand held shower to safely bathe themselves? Is the temperature in the bathroom adequate for showering – too hot, cold or steamy?

  • Are their living areas free from hazards such as throw rugs, electric cords and general clutter?

Can they safely move through the house without danger of tripping and falling? Are there extension cords in the walking path? Can throw rugs be removed? Can the furniture be rearranged or minimized to open up lanes of walking? Is clutter removed to allow safe walking? Are the floors a non-skid material? Are the floors in good repair with no loose floorboards or peeling linoleum?

  • Can they afford their current home mortgage or bills to keep it functioning safely?

Is your senior able to pay their mortgage or rent plus utilities and taxes in addition to their other costs of living, including insurance, prescriptions, and food? Can they afford the upkeep of an aging home to keep it safe in the upcoming years?

  • Would they benefit from smart home features?

There are more and more products that can be added to a home for safety and connectivity with caregivers. Can these be added to your senior’s home? Can your senior operate them or learn to operate them? Is there web access or a smartphone available to allow for their operation?

Many of these concerns are easily remedied.

Adapt Their Home — or Consider a New One?

If the needs of your senior can’t be met in their current home, such as location to medical services or family members, it might be time to make a change and relocate to a more suitable community and home.

Plan ahead for their needs so that your loved one can safely age in place, whether it means finding a new home or adapting their current home before its needed.

If you decide that a home renovation is needed, there are professionals who are specially trained in this type of home remodeling. A certified specialist in aging in place (CAPS) in your area can be located through the National Association of Home Builders.

Checklist for Family Caregivers

We have compiled a list of items in a checklist format that family caregivers can use to determine what renovations or remodeling need to be done to keep your senior loved one safe at home.

You may determine after reviewing this list that it is too much and another home might better serve your senior loved one. You can then communicate effectively with your senior about the options and agree on a course of action that works for everyone.

Download our free Home Seniorization Checklist for ideas and next steps!