More than 80% of those who are 65 and older say they want to stay in their homes as they age. Yet only 1% of American homes are favorable for senior living. Here are some home improvements that will make your home last through all the stages of life.
ENTRANCES. Create a well-lit, zero-step path with a covered entrance. Wheelchairs need a 36-inch wide clearance and a gradual incline to entry landing. Thresholds should be no higher than half an inch.
SHOWERS. Design one wheelchair-accessible bathroom with a curbless walk-in shower. Add handlebars, a fold-down seat, a handheld showerhead with a 6-foot hose, and a non-slip surface. Use lever-style faucets for easy on and off.
KITCHEN. Vary the counter heights (32-42 inches) and give them a shallower depth. Place upper wall cabinets three inches lower than conventional height. Add pull-out shelves and lazy-susans and consider open shelving for frequently used items. Place the microwave at counter height and consider a side-swing oven door.
FLOORPLAN. The open design layout presents fewer hallways to navigate and allows more flexibility for furniture positioning. A single story with no steps is ideal, but if that’s not possible, be sure to have a bedroom, bathroom, and laundry on the main floor.
LIGHTING. Windows should be easy to open and close. Place task lighting in the kitchen and reading areas.
Position light switches for reaching while sitting and replace with rocker or touch switches.
OUTDOORS. Include spaces for connecting with nature and interacting with neighbors. Raised garden beds and wraparound decks that are level with the main floor offer a therapeutic outlet. Carports and garages may need to accommodate raised-roof vans with a 5-foot minimum access aisle between an accessible van and another vehicle.
OTHER. Install handrails for stairs, add contrast strips and lighting to increase the visibility of steps. Give closets and storage spaces adjustable rods and shelves. Install easy-to-read programmable thermostats at a height that is reachable while sitting. Choose smooth, non-glare, slip-resistant flooring or low-density carpet with a firm pad.
Making home improvements with your long-term future in mind increases your chances of remaining in your home through all the stages of independent living.