15 Renovations for Seniors that Make Aging in Place Easy
Even though we diligently save up for retirement, it doesn’t occur to most of us to plan our home renovations for our senior years. It can be hard to picture ourselves having trouble with stairs, having trouble seeing, or using a walker or wheelchair someday. But it happens.
Even if we lose mobility, that doesn’t mean our only option is to end up in a nursing home.
In fact, it’s becoming more and more popular for people to stay in their own homes as they age. According to a Royal Bank of Canada survey, 83% of the baby boomer generation wants to remain in the homes they love.
In order to make that dream a reality, however, a little forethought is needed. When the time comes to upgrade your kitchen, bathroom, or other parts of your home, a little advance planning goes a long way.
Luckily, the team at Copperstone has a lot of experience in designing for the long-term!
If you know you’ve found your “forever home” and want to make it as future-proof as possible, renovations ideas like these can help make it easier to manage – and much safer.
In Your Kitchen
When planning your new kitchen, let us know if you plan to stay in your home (as opposed to selling). There are lots of options we can incorporate to make it as senior-friendly as possible.
1. Opt for Drawers Instead of Shelves
We recommend this to everyone, not just homeowners who are planning to age in place. Drawers are by far a better option for your lower cabinets. Not only are they easier to use, but they’re easier to organize. Learn more >
2. Plan for Under-the-Counter Space
This is something many people don’t think about when designing a kitchen for senior living: adding sections of counter that have enough space for walkers and wheelchairs underneath them.
Most counters have a slight overhang above a cabinet. But if you’re using a walker or in a wheelchair, you’ll never be able to get close enough to the counter to do normal prep activities like chopping or mixing.
We can design a kitchen for you that contains prep areas that are accessible to everyone who uses your kitchen.
3. Lower the Level of Cabinets and Counters
Making space under your counters is only one option. If you’re planning for aging in place, we can also lower the counter and cabinet height so they are more accessible in general. Our designers can work out exact measurements for you, and help you balance current and future needs.
4. Choose Counters with Rounded Corners
Ever banged your arm, hip, or leg on the corner of a counter?
For most of your adult life, you would have just let slip a bad word and walked it off. But as we age, little things like bruises and bumps can become much worse.
By opting for rounded counters, you’ll eliminate those sharp corners and make your kitchen more user-friendly for kids as well as elders.
Tip: As our eyes age, it becomes more difficult to see things like counter edges. Having counters in a contrasting colour from cabinets will highlight them for you, and help you see more clearly where the counter ends.
A properly designed bathroom is one of the most important renovations for seniors. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) found that one-third of seniors over 65 will slip and fall each year. 80% of those falls will occur in the bathroom.
As falls are a hazard for younger adults and kids too, an accessible bathroom is a great idea for families of any age.
5. Include Grab Bars in Your Bathroom Design
Grab bars are an absolute must in a new bathroom, especially when you’re planning for the future. By installing them in your shower area or over a bathtub, you can give yourself extra support as you move, or the ability to catch yourself if you slip.
Grab bar designs have come a long way, and there’s lots of choice in style – some look positively elegant! It has never been easier to incorporate an important safety feature into your new bathroom without making it look at all institutional.
6. Better Yet: Choose Showers and Bathtubs Designed for Accessibility
Approximately 33% of all bathroom-related injuries occur when bathing or showering. A shower, bathtub, or shower/tub combination that’s designed for safety can keep you from becoming part of that statistic.
There are a few accessible bathing options to choose from:
- Converting to a walk-in shower (with no curb) that will accommodate a walker or even a wheelchair.
- Installing a walk-in tub that has a door on the side. These tubs have a seat, and often a retractable shower head for rinsing.
The only caveat here is that not all of the options are child-friendly. Again, talk to us about who will be living in the home, and we can help you weigh the options.
There are no wrong answers here: just what works for your bathing preferences, your home and your budget.
7. Add Seats to Your Shower
For those who need help with balance, being able to sit down in the shower minimizes the risk of falls. It will also free up your hands for washing.
8. Install Taller Toilets or Toilet Seat Extenders
There are several different standard heights for toilets, some of which are quite low to accommodate children. But that’s the last thing you want when you’re getting older. For seniors with joint pain, a low toilet seat is equally difficult to use whether sitting down or getting up.
If this is a concern for you, ask us for a toilet that’s taller and specifically made for people aging in place. If you want to keep your options open, you could also install a regular height toilet now and add toilet seat extenders later on.
Around Your Home
Almost any renovation in the home can present an opportunity to plan ahead. Some of these accessibility improvements may not be obvious now, but will become lifesavers as we age. Incorporating them into renovations you’re doing anyway can save money, as opposed to doing additional retrofits later.
9. Widen Doorways and Remove Tight Corners
To accommodate mobility aids, the doorways of your home should be widened to at least 34 inches. For wheelchair users, it’s important to allow for a turning radius, or room to back up.
Entrances to the home may be fine with one or more stairs now, but if possible make it easy to add ramps later on if needed.
10. Level Out Your Flooring
Uneven floors and changing levels can make life harder for those who need a walker to get around.
If you’re updating your flooring, it makes sense to eliminate any existing height changes or curbs, and even out any odd transitions between flooring types. A more consistent level will also look better.
11. Install Anti-Slip Flooring
There are many types of flooring that look beautiful, but are very slippery and hurt a lot when you fall on them.
Including slip-resistant flooring options like textured tile will make rooms like your bathroom much safer to walk on. In other rooms, softer materials like cork can make falls less hazardous.
12. Switch to Lever-Style Door Handles
Lever-style door handles are easier for arthritic hands to operate than door knobs, and don’t require a hearty grip to turn. You also don’t have to worry about applying pressure with only your thumb, as you do with latches.
13. Add More Lighting – and Make it Easier to Use
A lack of lighting is a real problem, particularly as our eyes age. When you’re making upgrades, adding lights should be on the top of your list.
While you’re thinking about adding more lights, you should also think about moving your light switches to a lower height. While they may be reachable now, that may not be the case in a few years.
You could also include automatic lights that turn on when you enter the room. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to add a whole new system: it can be as easy as using switches that include their own motion sensor. These can help you walk from room to room with confidence.
14. Plan for as Much Single-Floor Living as Possible
As we age, two of the most common problems that develop are pain in the knees and pain in the hips. Either of these will make using the stairs a trial.
One possible solution can be rearranging our homes so that stairs don’t have to be used as often. Moving the laundry room to the main floor can make life a lot easier. In fact, it’s common in European countries to include the washer and dryer in either the kitchen or the bathroom.
It’s also helpful to ensure that there is a bathroom on every floor, especially the main level where you will probably spend most of your time..
15. Plan for a Stairlift
There may come a time when using stairs in your home will become so difficult that a stairlift is a necessity. If some of the work we’ll be doing work will be on or around stairs, ask about what electrical and structural reinforcement is needed to make it easier to add a stairlift later on.
Tip: If you have senior parents living with you, or are 65 years old or older, you may qualify for a program that helps with costs for accessibility upgrades to your home.
Talk to Copperstone About Renovations to Make Your Home Safer and More Convenient
Aging in place keeps seniors happier, healthier, and more independent. If you’re thinking about renovations, talk to our experts about your plans for the future.
You’ll be able to stay in your home for years to come, confident that as you age, your house will adapt to your needs.