As we age, often the dearest wish of our hearts is to remain in our own home as long as we can. The memories created have turned the house we purchased twenty years ago into a lived in museum, telling the story of our lives and our family. To leave it just when we can spend the time to truly enjoy it is heart breaking.
There are many options to choose from to make living at home easier as you get older. When faced with the cost of moving to an assisted living facility, many seniors will choose to make upgrades to their home, investing in something they can leave for their family in the end. In addition, you don’t have to sacrifice style for safety when choosing to renovate your home.
Renovations will vary in cost, depending on how much is needed to make your home safe for you and your loved ones as mobility and other health issues make it difficult to navigate. Creating a budget for these is the first step, and knowing you will have a return on your investment, unlike living in an assisted living facility, can give you peace of mind in your golden years.
Evaluate your home with your loved ones, going through room by room and making notes of what tasks could be an impediment as you age. You can prioritize them and choose what will need to be done by when, depending on your health and home style. For example, if you live in a ranch, everything is on one floor, so you won’t need a stair lift or elevator, but you may need to widen doorways to accommodate a wheelchair.
Here are the most common upgrades you can make, creating an even more comfortable sanctuary in which to live out your retirement.
Elevator or Stair Lift
This is one of the most common upgrades to a home that you can make if you encounter a lot of stairs. Any home inspection will require grip bars alongside them, which is very helpful if you are mobile but maybe have some balance issues. However, if it comes to a point where you are in a wheelchair or require a walker, having an elevator or stair lift can help immensely, allowing you to access all the floors in your home.
Choosing between an elevator and a stair lift is dependent on your budget and home style. For example, if you have more than two floors, an elevator might be the best option, though more expensive than a stair lift. An elevator can cost $30,000 or more, and a stair lift can cost anywhere from $3,000-$10,000 and up. If you have to install 3 or 4 separate stair lifts, the cost could become more than an elevator.
Speaking of stairs, you may want to convert outdoor stairs to ramps. This can be easily done and look very classy with dark stained wood and detailed posts. You can have a builder construct the ramp over your existing stairs, which will save you money in long run. This is also an inexpensive way to make your home more accessible.
In Home Monitoring System
If you or your loved one lives alone, this upgrade will give you a certain peace of mind that no other upgrade will. Knowing that help is just a button press away should you fall or injure yourself is a great relief from worry. These systems are fairly inexpensive; beginning from $200 for the monitors and $50 per month for the service, it can fit in just about any budget.
Of course, there are many others that cost more and have more services, but instead of going top of the line, you can have a family member or in home caregiver check in every day and make sure all is well. Losing mobility often leads to isolation, so having human contact throughout the day helps every senior maintain a sociability that greatly improves mood and mental health.
Your flooring in your home can become tricky as you age, so it is important to analyze what areas could become dangerous to trips, slips, and falls. As these are the most common in home accidents, it is essential to have flush or flat transitions from room to room, limiting the opportunity for a trip or fall.
If you have hardwood, you will want to avoid high gloss finishes, as these can be slippery to stocking feet or slippers. They are very elegant looking and can be an upgrade if you currently have plush carpets, which can be somewhat hazardous as well. Again, be sure the transitions are smooth from room to room.
Carpeting is safe if you have wall to wall, low pile flooring. Area rugs are very dangerous as they can be a source for tripping or slipping if not affixed to the floor with a non-slip pad and furniture. It is recommended to eliminate throw rugs and area rugs to be on the safe side.
Cooking in the Kitchen
No matter if you live by yourself or with loved ones, the kitchen is always a high traffic area. For preparing and sharing meals, as well as a place to gather socially, kitchens are the hub of a home. For many aging seniors, getting into the upper shelves of the cabinets can be a chore. Adding pull out trays and Lazy Susans can help alleviate accidents, and unneeded stress on joints and muscles.
At the sink, one simple improvement can make a huge difference: using a one levered faucet option can prevent accidental scalding. It is easy to forget to turn on both levels to temper the hot water with cold. Seniors have more delicate skin, similar to children, so preventing scalding from hot water is just one more safe measure one can take in the home.
Installing a wall oven can also help make things more comfortable in the kitchen for you and your aging loved ones. This way you won’t have to bend over to get things in and out of the oven, saving you from muscle strains and other uncomfortable issues that might prevent you from wanting to cook. It is also beneficial for those with disabilities who work with an in home caregiver: The kitchen can become a fun place to spend time together.
There is nothing worse than having a passion for cooking and feeling like it is impossible to prepare a meal in your own kitchen. Making these minor improvements to your kitchen will add fuel to your passion for food to last you through your golden years.
Light It Up
Old eyes have a hard time seeing, sometimes even in the best of light. Analyze the lighting in your home and ask yourself where you could add some track lighting or under cabinet lighting to help brighten the rooms you use most frequently. Having new lighting put in can be easy; however, you will want to check your electric box to make sure you have the capacity for it.
Arthritic hands can have a difficult time flipping old switches, or experience pain when posed with a sticky one. One easy and inexpensive improvement to make is switching over to rocker switches. These are very easy to turn off and on, requiring gentle pressure by finger, hand, arm, or anything you poke at them.
Aside from having light for areas most used in the house, it is also recommended to have nightlights placed throughout the home. Middle of the night bathroom trips can be a source of accidents, and being in the dark and unsure of balance or footing can lead to falls. Preventing these accidents can be as simple as lighting the path to the bathroom from the bedroom. If you are fortunate to have an en suite, you may only need one or two to light the way.
Bathing and Showering Challenges
The bathroom is the most dangerous place in the home. So many slips and falls happen here, leading to head injuries, drowning, and many other pains. There are several things you can do to make the bathroom safer for you and your loved ones, such as non-slip mats in and out of the tub. If you decide to keep your standard shower and tub combo, be sure to include a rubber non-slip mat inside the shower. Also, add a grip bar to prevent falling if you lose balance or experience vertigo.
Perhaps you are ready to upgrade your entire bathroom, which can cost in the thousands, depending on the bells and whistles you choose, but which also offers the highest return on investment. Many baby boomers are now installing upright showers with bench seating in them. This style has an elegant, modern look without looking like a hospital bathroom. Using mosaic tile can create a luxurious-feeling shower space that is also safe and functional.
Sitting down on the toilet seat can be a chore if the seat is a standard, low to the ground model. There are many that make it easier on knees that are higher up, with modern designs. This is a more comfortable option for many seniors who wish to retain the look and feel of home instead of purchasing a portable raised toilet extension that can make it look very institutionalized.
Sinks are best at higher levels, just like the kitchen. The same also goes for the single lever faucet to prevent scalding. Storage can be functional with shallow cabinetry, making it easy to access medications, and other first aid and hygienic items.
From your bed to your favorite cozy chair, your creature comforts may not be so comfortable as you age and have difficulty getting in and out of them. There is a whole market out there for ergonomic furniture and the perfect bed to help you be even more comfortable without sacrificing style.
Adjustable beds used to just be for the elderly, but the trend has been increasing across many ages. From the Sleep Number bed to the Craftmatic, there are many types that will help you be more comfortable and get a good night’s sleep. Always test out mattresses before buying and try to get the 30-day back guarantee just in case the model you choose isn’t the right fit.
Ergonomic chairs can be found in all shapes, sizes, and colors, nowadays. It used to be just the weird mesh black hard chairs with additional lumbar support were offered, but now even couches are coming equipped with these added features. Upgrading your furniture with the right height seat and support where you need it most can make you more comfortable and help you enjoy those lazy, rainy afternoons reading or watching movies.
With all of these upgrades to choose from, you may be tempted to do them all at once. Feel free to do that, or to space them out over time as you need to, knowing that the investment you are making is not only allowing you to spend your remaining years at home, but giving your family something for when you are gone.