As the world’s population ages, more and more conversations have started revolving around the changes we may face as we get older. However, though we may have heard them talked about, feeling them in our own skin may come as a shock – especially when they limit the way we use our houses.
Suppose stairs you’ve always sped up and down become a challenge or you no longer feel safe getting in and out of the bath. You may start to wonder if staying in your home as you age is an option or if you should begin looking for alternatives.
To help you determine if aging in place is a viable option, we’ve put together some top tips on home modifications, so let’s begin.
More seniors than ever are choosing to Age in Place
As recently as a couple of decades ago, the expectation as we aged would have been that eventually (if we were lucky!) we would abandon our beloved homes and move into a care facility. It was the norm rather than a considered decision, and seniors didn’t think otherwise.
Times have, however, changed, and with changing times bringing increased life expectancies and quality of life as we age, more and more seniors are opting to stay where they are, long-term. This is partly due to rising skepticism around institutional care, especially over the past year or two of the pandemic, but mostly because of the independence, freedom of movement and lower costs of this choice compared to moving to a care facility.
Still, though a straightforward decision in principle, in practice, aging in place may not prove so easy. Essential tweaks may be required to accommodate residents with changing needs, ensuring they can keep their freedom of movement for years to come.
Home modifications: no time like the present
Home modifications to help us age in place are not like other home modifications our homes may go through over time. While a leaky roof, flooded basement or broken heating may need immediate action to be taken, our needs rarely change overnight. This may mean you don’t notice changes to your mobility over time, or if you do notice them, they don’t seem all that pressing. Until suddenly, they are.
The first step to moulding a house to its residents’ needs is to work out what those needs are. Whether pressing or noncritical, life-altering or a mild inconvenience, pinpointing these needs is the first step to providing for them. The more needs are detected to start with, the more comprehensive your home modification plan can be.
The trick to home modifications, you see, is to take them one at a time.
Rather than an overhaul costing tens of thousands, which means your house becomes a building site, start with the most essential needs. Sure, your needs are changing, but they’re taking their time about it, so you have the luxury of breathing space between alterations – time to save up and calculate, do things one step at a time and consider what your needs really are.
Home modifications for seniors: Determining problem areas in a house
So, to pinpoint a resident’s needs, the first step is to carry out a home assessment – when you walk around your home and note any potential dangers. What you have trouble doing, areas you feel less steady, and parts of your house you may have started avoiding. Some areas you may wish to focus on include:
- Dark hallways
- Coils / wires / rugs on the floor
- Kitchens, especially cabinets
In this assessment, make sure you consider future needs so that they can be avoided or provided for before they become problems. This plan – a carefully thought-out plan of modifications you can carry out over time – is what will bring you long-term peace of mind.
Home modifications: Which ones are right for you?
Once you’ve pinpointed specific risk/difficulty areas comes the next step: finding a solution to each scenario:
– If the problem is stability or balance, would handholds or railings solve the problem?
– Is the issue uneven flooring? Could it be levelled out or made non-slip?
– Is visibility making entrances unviable? Could more lighting help?
– Could communication be causing concern? Would home tech of some sort solve it?
– Are throughways clear? Could rugs, wires and other tripping hazards be secured away?
– Are the stairs safe? Can they be used securely and comfortably, or does an alternative need to be explored?
Have your initial plan in place? Then the final, determining step is ensuring the design, look and functionality of it all. In short: will the solutions you’ve found solve the problems, fit into your home, and look good?
Then it’s time to get started on item number one of your list, ensuring your home stays safe for you as you age, no matter what the future may hold.