Adapting your home for mobility and convenience
Most adults aged 50 and older say they want to stay in their current home for as long as possible, according to an AARP survey.1 But not every home can accommodate changing needs as you or your loved ones age. The good news is that there are several ways to modify your current home to help you age in place, including enhancements that improve mobility, convenience and safety.
The benefits of making your home ready to age in place
Aging in place offers many advantages. For instance, you get to stay in a home that you love, and stay near friends, familiar neighbors, healthcare providers and your local community. Making improvements that aid mobility and safety can also be more cost-effective than moving into a new home or assisted living facility.
Home modifications to consider for convenience, mobility and safety
Statistics show that half of all people requesting home renovations are adults aged 55 and older.2 It’s no stretch to imagine that at least some of those updates relate to aging in place.
There are several types of home improvements that can help meet changing needs as you age and that can help make it easier and safer to navigate your home. From helping to reduce the risk of falls, to addressing limited mobility issues, making home modifications like those listed below can increase independence and provide peace of mind.
Some of the modifications listed below are simple, inexpensive, and can be made with products found at your local home improvement store. Other home modifications are more extensive and costly and should only be done by a licensed contractor.
- Widen doorways to at least 36 inches to accommodate a walker or wheelchair.
- Add handrails to stairs and in hallways, bedrooms and bathrooms for extra balance assistance.
- Replace round doorknobs with lever-style handles — they’re easier to grip and don’t require a twisting motion. This can be helpful for those with arthritis or limited mobility.
- Raise electrical outlets and lower light switches for easier access for people in wheelchairs.
- Install ramps to aid those unsteady on their feet or those with balance issues.
- Update flooring by replacing thick carpet; tape down throw rugs to help prevent trips and falls.
- Install an elevator or stairlift to allow for easy movement between floors when walking up and down stairs becomes too difficult.
- Add smart home technology, like a home monitoring system or automatic lighting.
Pay extra attention to the kitchen and bathrooms
The kitchen and bathrooms are generally among the most high-traffic areas in homes. In these rooms, consider replacing traditional faucets with hands-free, touchless versions that are easier for arthritic hands to use. Also consider adding an anti-scalding device to reduce the risk of burns.
Other ways to adapt the kitchen and bathrooms for safety and convenience include:
- Make appliances more accessible by swapping an above-range microwave for one at counter level; install a raised dishwasher to help avoid back strain
- Lower kitchen countertops to make it easier for someone in a wheelchair or scooter to prepare food
- Update storage positioning for easier access by installing revolving corner shelves, pull- out shelves and adding larger pull handles on cabinets and drawers
- Add adhesive strips to floors, showers and tubs to help prevent slips and falls
- Replace a traditional bathtub with a walk-in tub or shower, or consider a curbless shower so there’s nothing to step over when getting in and out
- Add a bench or chair in showers; install handrails or grab bars in the shower or tub and near toilets to help prevent falls
Consider your home’s exterior
It’s a good idea to have at least one no-step entry into your home to help you or your loved ones move safely and securely in and out of your house. Other modifications to consider include extra outdoor lighting, handrails along outside steps and porches, and placing a package shelf by the front door to make it easier to pick up deliveries.
How to pay for home renovations and improvements
There are several ways to pay for home renovations. Options include using funds in a personal savings account or taking out a personal loan. Another popular option to pay for home improvements is leveraging the equity in your home with a home equity loan or home equity line of credit, a renovation loan, or a cash-out refinance. These types of mortgage-based loans generally include lower interest rates and more flexible terms compared to other types of borrowing options.
You also may want to research programs that provide financial assistance, including grants for home modifications. These include Medicare.gov, Eldercare and Funding Sources for Home Modifications.
Start planning now for future needs
When it comes to safety and convenience, many of these home modifications are nice to have even before you need them. And if or when mobility issues arise, your home will be well prepared. To learn more about home improvement financing options, including home equity loans, home equity lines of credit, and a renovation loan, contact us.
- Home equity loan vs. a home equity line of credit: What’s the difference?
- Home improvement projects that deliver high return
1 “2018 Home and Community Preferences: A National Survey of Adults Ages 18-Plus,” Joanne Binntte and Kerri Vasold, AARP.org, revised July 2019, https://www.aarp.org/research/topics/community/info-2018/2018-home-community-preference.html
2 “Renovation Spending Is Up, New Houzz Study Shows,” Mitchell Parker, Houzz.com, posted June 23, 2021, https://www.houzz.com/magazine/renovation-spending-is-up-new-houzz-study-shows-stsetivw-vs~150388777