When entering their “golden years,” some folks choose to leave their homes for apartments or assisted living facilities. Others prefer to stay in their homes. Those “others” need to make sure their homes are senior friendly, so here are some home improvements that make super sense for seniors.
Where to Start
Make a note of the areas of your home that you, or the seniors in question, frequent most often: bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, family room, etc. Take a look around for potential hazards. Are there things blocking pathways? Does anything necessitate using a ladder or step stool? Make some changes!
Replacing light fixtures? Consider switching to economical LED lights, and consider using switches that are either remote controlled or voice or motion activated.
When it comes to floors, if you plan on replacing carpeting, be sure to use a short nap, as shaggier carpets tend to be easier to trip on. Hardwood, tile and linoleum are nice and smooth, but make sure they are not slippery. (And throw out the throw rugs or tape them down securely to avoid tripping.)
Bathrooms Are Very Important
Let’s start with the tub. If you can afford it, replace the tub with a shower, as showers are much easier to enter and exit. If you want to keep your tub, make sure the floor of the tub has a rougher surface to help prevent slips. For those with ambulatory concerns, consider one of those new walk-in tubs. Also make sure you install handrails in tub and shower areas.
You should also consider the height of bathroom fixtures to avoid having to reach or bend too much. Check the toilet: Is the seat too low? If so, replace the toilet with a taller unit, or find a seat that is taller. Sinks and cabinets should be easy to reach without standing on something. Lower the wall cabinets if necessary.
You can also change faucet handles and doorknobs to levers for ease of use. And make sure that your bathroom is wheelchair accessible, however you decide to update it.
Kitchens Are Important, Too
Again, address counter and cabinet height. Eliminate cabinetry and appliances that might impede the use of a wheel chair. Make sure first aid kits and fire extinguishers are installed within easy reach. If necessary, relocate light switches and circuit breakers so easy to get to.
An attached garage is ideal. This will help seniors get back and forth from the car to the house with less risk of falling on ice and snow. If an attached garage isn’t realistic for your home, try to shelter the path from the house to the garage with a breezeway of some type.
Also try making yard work easier by installing gutter guards, or better yet, leafless gutters. This will eliminate the possibility of falling off a ladder while cleaning out leaves and debris.
If the deck needs replacing, consider a ground-level patio instead. Once again, this eliminates one more slip-and-fall opportunity. Also, check porch and deck rails for stability, and replace the rickety ones.
How Do I Pay for This?
If funding necessary home improvements is an issue, there are two routes that may be helpful.
The federal government makes grants and loans available through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Low-income seniors 62 and older can apply for assistance through either the Very Low-Income Housing Repair program or the Rural Housing Repair and Rehabilitation program. Contact the USDA at (800) 670-6553 for more information.
If you don’t qualify for either of those government programs, consider a reverse mortgage to help cover the cost of home improvements. A reverse mortgage is ideal for some seniors who wish to stay in their homes without making mortgage payments. To find out if a reverse mortgage is right for you, check out OneReverseMortgage.com.
Pay close attention to the updates we’ve mentioned, and your home will be a lot safer for seniors. If you have any other suggestions for home improvements that will make homes safe for seniors, let us know and we’ll add them to our to-do list.
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