5 Home Improvements That Help You ‘Age in Place’

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Senior couple happy at home
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Nearly 90% of Americans age 50 or older want to retire in their current home, according to Capital Caring Health.

However, that company’s study also found people age 80 and older are more likely to be living in an assisted living facility or retirement community.

Staying home could require homeowners to make some changes to maintain their quality of life. Following are some practical upgrades to consider if you’re planning on aging in place.

1. Add accessible door handles

home security
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Doorknobs: They may look like a simple aesthetic choice at first glance, but they also can matter a lot when you’re aging.

Traditional knobs require tight grasping and a twisting motion, which can pose a challenge to people with arthritis or poor balance. This is why you rarely if ever see public buildings with traditional doorknobs, which don’t meet the accessibility requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Lever door handles are easier to grip. They function more simply, opening a door with the weight of your hand. What’s more, stylish levers update the look of your home.

At Amazon, door levers start at less than $20.

2. Improve storage and shelving

Kitchen shelf utensils white
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You shouldn’t need to strain to use or put away everyday items. Particularly in the kitchen, evaluate the height and placement of the counter, cabinets, drawers, storage racks and shelving.

A few ideas:

  • Lazy Susans keep things organized, compact and easy to access.
  • Use dowels or racks to store cookware instead of stacking them, to avoid moving heavy pots and pans.
  • Well-mounted wall hooks make things easier to reach.
  • Slide-out shelving is more accessible than cabinets that require you to crouch or reach.
  • Fix or replace sticky drawers, and add accessible touch or push latches or lever handles.
  • Add a kitchen island or prep table at a comfortable height.

3. Install a curbless shower or walk-in tub

handicapped accessible bathroom disabled senior elderly
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As we age, navigating our home can be, literally, a balancing act. More than 1 in 4 older people suffer a fall each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among the risks: broken bones, hip fractures and head injuries.

Furthermore, many become fearful of further falls, and so reduce their activities — gradually leading to reduced strength and possibly increasing the risk of falling.

When you have a slippery-when-wet bathroom, the appeal of this renovation is obvious. There are two main options:

  • Walk-in tub: Generally taller than a traditional bathtub, with a watertight door and usually a seat, some walk-in tubs are made with people transferring from wheelchairs in mind. Safety features can include nonslip flooring, handrails and anti-scald valves.
  • Curbless shower: More open than a conventional shower, this design may not involve a door at all — like a gym shower. There is no lip to step or trip over, and the floor slopes slightly toward the drain. You may want to add safety features like grab bars and nonslip mats.

The price varies, depending on size, design, materials and local labor costs. You’ll spend extra to reinforce the floor and drain beneath a curbless shower.

At Home Depot, the cost of walk-in tubs ranges from around $1,900 to more than $8,000.

4. Fall-proof steps and stairs

Elder Senior Woman Stair Lift Home Mobility
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The health risks of falling — and the preventive steps you can take — are hard to overstate. Anything you can do to reduce your risk and dependence on others is worth considering.

The options include:

  • Where changes in height are minimal, one or two steps can be replaced with a ramp or improved with a railing.
  • Longer staircases are more difficult. Add bright lighting, solid railings on each side of a staircase and anti-slip strips on stair edges.
  • A stair lift (shown above) also may be a solution.

Adding a stair lift generally runs from $2,000 to $5,000, according to Forbes Health. Lifts for curved staircases can be much more expensive.

5. Create a home office or hobby room

An older man sits at his desk
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As you transition out of the workforce, you might find value in setting up a quiet, tidy place in your home to enjoy a hobby or to organize paperwork and manage your financial affairs. This is especially true if you will continue consulting or working remotely after leaving a full-time job.

Or, perhaps you want to find a new use for a spare bedroom or the kids’ room. If you’ll be spending more time at home, it’s natural to start using more of it.

Costs vary, depending on your plans, how much work you’ll do yourself and local costs for labor and supplies. Get several detailed bids from contractors and compare them.

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