Three great reasons to age-proof your home now.
Updated: Apr 21
Most people don’t want to think about how abilities may change as we get older but for most it’s just a fact of life. Here are some sobering statistics:
Over 25% of people age 65 and older have at least one disability. That figure increases to nearly 50% by age 75.
Nearly 50% of adults over age 65 have arthritis.
About 30% of us will have some form of vision-reducing eye disease by the age of 65.
24% of people over the age of 65 use some kind of mobility device like a walker or a cane.
While this isn’t good news, there are steps you can take ahead of time to ensure that your home is going to meet your needs for the long run. There are advantages to being proactive and not putting it off until you don’t have much of a choice.
Modify in stages. By planning ahead, you don’t have to make changes all at once. Making smaller adjustments over time can be easier on your wallet. Keep in mind that when you need these modifications, you’ll probably be living on a fixed income so taking a big financial hit may be difficult. By making changes now, you can budget for small changes spread out over a longer period of time.
You can also take steps now to make modifications a lot easier later on. Perhaps you want to update your bathroom now for purely aesthetic reasons. By planning for aging-in-place, you can put blocking behind your drywall to make sure that future grab bars are secure. Blocking typically involves installing 2-inch by 10-inch wood between the wall studs (however, there are different kinds of blocking based on the specific needs of the house). Putting this blocking in place now will avoid the need to tear into walls later which will likely save you expense, mess and aggravation.
For that bathroom remodel, you may want to consider a wall mounted bathroom sink which is not only stylish but allows enough space underneath for a wheelchair or walker. Other changes to look at are levers instead of knobs on doors and faucets. Levers are much easier to handle for people with arthritis. All of these little changes really add up to a well-designed, accessible space.
Deal with the mess now to avoid risk later. Living through a remodel is typically not fun no matter how great your contractor is. It’s inconvenient and messy. Now imagine that you have to live through this while you are also dealing with limited mobility or failing eyesight. What was once an inconvenience has now become an increased fall risk. Even the fittest older adults typically experience balance issues due to decreased core strength.
If you’re dealing with respiratory issues, increased dust and other particles in the air can create additional health risks or will require added expense for equipment to keep these airborne elements to a minimum.
Make your home a haven for visitors
Aging-in-place modifications make you home more visitable and inviting for friends or family who have physical limitations and can significantly lessen inconvenience for you and them. Visitability is based on the idea that homes should include three basic features that make them accessible to people no matter their physical abilities.
At least one zero-step entrance to the home
Interior doorways along the accessible route should be at least 32 inches wide and have lever handles
A ground floor accessible bathroom
It could be a good place to start if you don’t want to make changes all at once.
Ideally you don’t want to have to deal with aging-in-place modifications when a health crisis forces a decision. In that situation you’ll likely have to make a quick decision and do something that works functionally but not aesthetically. By thoughtfully beginning the process ahead of time, you’ll be able to make changes to your home that not only meet your needs but also your personal taste and style.