Wanting to stay in our homes as we age is not a new concept but the phrase “Aging in Place” has started popping up within the past 20 years or so. With a large portion of the of our society retiring and technology advancing we can adapt our homes to help live in them for years to come.
There are several steps you can do yourself to help either yourself or a loved one.
- Change out your current bulbs to LED bulbs which typically have a rated life of up to 50,000 hours. This means that you won’t have to climb up on a ladder to change them for about 20-25 years (based on average use of 3 hours a day).
- Smart plug adaptors or touch lamp adaptors are great for those with arthritis. With smart plug adaptors all you do is plug your lamp into the adaptor and then plug the adaptor into the outlet, and ask your home assistant (Alexa, Google, etc.) to turn on your lamp. Just remember you must have WIFI. A touch lamp adaptor installs the same way-you need to touch metal on the lamp to complete the circuit to turn it on or off. When purchasing either one of these make sure that they are LED compatible otherwise the bulb will flicker.
- Move furniture so that the room can be navigated easier by a person with a walker or a wheelchair. For a wheelchair you want at a least 60” diameter for clearance so that a person can turn around.
- Remove rugs they are a tripping hazard.
- Add a shower seat in for ease and accessibility.
- Use a shower curtain instead of doors to have a wider opening.
- Install Safety Grip Strips (with high contrast from the floor color) where slippage could occur like showers and steps.
- Rethink your appliances. Front load washers and dryers make it easier to reach your laundry. Induction stoves have a flat cooktop for easy transfer of pots and pans from one burner to another and will only heat the pot/pan, keeping the surface cool to the touch. Adjustable bedframes make it easier to get in and out of bed.
- Set up your home assistant (Alexa, Google, etc.) for reminders to take medications, Doctor’s appointments.
These fixes are a little trickier and may require our Express Handyman Service
- Add more lighting this could be as simple as adding some lamps in key areas or creating task lighting such as undercabinet LED tape light.
- Changing out your regular toggle light switches to a Decora style switch with a motion sensor allows the lights to come on when you enter the room and to turn off after the programed amount of time.
- A handheld shower mounted to the sidewall allows you to be able to either sit on a bench or use a wheelchair in the shower.
- Faucets with single lever are simpler to turn on and off.
- Grab bars make slippery showers safer and help to get on and off the toilet.
- Changing the water heater for a max temp of 120 ensures that the water won’t become too hot to scold.
- Replace traditional doorknobs with a door lever it makes access to rooms a breeze.
- Graspable railings on either side of a staircase allows you to steady yourself.
- Placing a microwave at counter height lets you use the appliance from a seated position and allows heavy items to be slid out onto the counter.
- Add pullout shelves to cabinets to access hard to reach items.
- Move essential rooms like the bedroom, bathroom with a shower, and a laundry room to the first floor so you do not have to climb steps.
These will require a handyman or Design Build Remodeling to achieve.
- Add a comfort height toilet and or a platform under the toilet to help with standing and sitting.
- Low step or zero threshold showers and lower shower niches are easier to access.
- Create a vanity with varied heights so you can stand or sit. Or choose a floating vanity so you can pull up a wheelchair.
- Widen your doorways-Wheelchairs need between 36-48” to pass through.
- Rework your staircase so the steps do not have any overhang, so your toes won’t catch.
- Countertops with sharp corners can be a hazard using rounded corners can prevent accidents.
- Create floor consistency and get rid of thresholds so that wheelchairs and walkers can easily move from room-to-room.
- Stair lift will allow you to be able to access more than the main floor of your house.
- Ramps make life so much more convenient for wheelchairs and walkers.
Q: What is the first step I should take?
A: Have an honest conversation on what your needs are and what concerns you have about staying in your home. From here you can determine what steps you need to take. For more advice on how to modify your home contact one of Remodeling Contractors’ Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS). Learn more about CAPS by visiting the National Association of Home Builders website.
Q: At what point should I start thinking about “Aging in Place”?
A: You can start at any time in your life. People in their 30’s and 40’s who are planning their renovations (or new construction builds) are thinking ahead on how to design their homes to stay in them for the long haul. This concept is called Universal Design, the idea is to make homes accessible to all people.
Q: Will I need major renovations?
A: You can make minor adjustments through out the “Aging in Place” process and as time goes on you can figure out what is not working and make changes as needed.
Q: What are the best updates I should make to help myself or a loved one?
A: A great place to start is to add more lighting, replace items like doorknobs and faucets with lever styles, and fix the little things that you have “learned to live with”. There’s a loose floorboard at your entryway or a door that sticks, these are typically simple fixes that we just have on our ongoing to do list. You have to take it on a case-by-case basis but, anything that makes life easier is a benefit.
Q: How far out should I be thinking about my future?
A: Plan ahead-you want to make sure that you think about tomorrow and not just today. When possible use convertible items like a front load washer/dryer with removable pedestals. We created a modular garage entry stairway where the steps can be removed, and a ramp inserted when needed.
Just remember, the Team at Express Handyman is here to help you come up with a plan that can work for you, your family and your budget. Give us a call at 515.202.1244 to talk to a Designer or Remodeling Specialist.
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