Home Modifications Help You Age in Place
Even small, inexpensive changes make a big difference
By Karen L. Braitmayer, FAIA
Most homeowners dream of a little upgrade to their home at one time or another. Poring over those home design magazine articles showing a more efficient kitchen, prettier bathroom, tidier front entry, or a more organized garage is a fun leisure pursuit. Well, there is another reason to consider small or large changes to your home: upgrading to make it easy and convenient to remain in your home as you age.
Upgrading your home is also referred to as “home modifications” for ”aging in place.” As we age, our bodies and abilities change over time—as our wisdom increases, our abilities may wane. This is natural and to be celebrated because it means we are living a long life! When these often-gradual changes occur, tasks and activities that could once be done with little thought or effort may put more stress on our bodies and tax our energy. Thoughtful design in your home environment can help you save “human” energy, reduce stress on your body, and make your home safer so you can remain independent.
Why think about upgrades now, probably before you are in noticeable need? So many helpful features, not commonly found in older homes, benefit everyone:
- Replacing the door knobs for lever handles on all the interior and exterior doors makes it easier to open a door with tired or sore hands, or to just use your elbow when your arms are full of groceries.
- Adding a handheld shower head to your main bath makes it possible to add a stool and sit in your shower when you are tired, and for families with young children or grandchildren who visit, it makes bathing the little ones in the tub so much easier.
- Removing loose throw rugs, or taping down the edges of the sturdier ones, removes trip hazards for everyone. All ages benefit from simple changes to their living environment.
Many folks think that adding usable, efficient features, such as universal design features, will make their home look like an institution. Good design eliminates that disadvantage:
- Lever door handles come in many styles now, from period pieces to contemporary, so a new door handle can match the style of the home.
- Adding a handheld showerhead is now a feature in those fancy “spa-like” bathrooms, adding a touch of luxury to yours.
- Securing rugs is an unseen way to be safer for everyone moving through the house.
With thought and care, the additions to or change within your home can be seamless and enhance the aesthetics of your home, not detract from them. Upgrades can be simple, low-cost changes installed by a reputable handyperson or significant remodels requiring skilled construction personnel.
Often, the biggest impact can come from the low-cost changes. Having trouble reaching things in the upper cupboard of the kitchen? Consider locating the commonly used items to within a comfortable reach for family members. Are the plates and drinking glasses in the upper cupboard because they have always been there? Maybe relocating them to a lower shelf or putting heavy plates in a pantry or nearby waist-height drawer makes them easier to reach. Rethinking the storage of everyday items might be the easiest and simplest ways to make your living area comfortable for you.
Remodeling your home to make life more comfortable, usable, and efficient is the right thing to do. It enables you to remain in your home, independently, for a longer time.
Published May 16, 2013