What do you call trying to make your home safer and more comfortable as you age – smart. I just saw a survey that says 59% of people think that the money that goes into nursing homes would be better spent making homes safer to live in. After considering a dozen different presentations of what you can do to make your home age friendly, I found a good one on a non profit website. It seems the best work is done by those without an underlying profit motive that is trying to sell you contractor services or specific products.
But first a bit of a glossary about what you can do to your home. You can make it more accessible, you can adapt parts of it or you can add/buy into universal design features. The technical terms for this fall into three categories.
Accessibility: Most are familiar with the public proof of the ADA. You know what it is to have a stall in a bathroom that is extra wide and more suitable for those who are disabled. You see curb cuts and of course those close to the action parking spaces. You can make your own own home more accessible by remodeling door frames, adding ramps, chair glides or simple things like getting rid of trip hazards.
Adaptable: This concept is a bit tricky. Newer higher priced town homes are being sold with built in elevator shafts that can covert from an extra closet to a working elevator to all floors of the home as the owners need it. It can also mean using current space in your home for something else. Maybe a first floor den that can become a small bedroom or bathroom, a porch can be enclosed or even taking out part of a large closet to build out a bathroom. This term applies to some newer homes that have door frames that can be expanded later as needed to 36 inches to accommodate wheelchairs.
Universal Design: Think generic. Back in the late forties after the war, communities were built with simple one story smaller affordable homes. They were often accessible in design without that being the primary intent. Now you have to pay top dollar for some patio homes in retirement communities that offer the same amount of space but with all the granite kitchens and tile bathrooms that you want. These types of home today, ranchers and cape cods are being fiercely fought over in today’s real estate market. I know as we had to get crazy to get ours. Fewer steps or no steps and a laundry on the first floor would make life easier for anyone.
So for some in depth reading/researching for your own purposes, I would like to point to this 20 page PDF by the Plough Foundation that was prepared for Shelby County, Tennessee: http://www.plough.org/assets/2012/plough_aginginplace_booklet-f_web.pdf More and more I am finding that individual states are really putting their heads together into the aging in place challenge as their population over 65 age residents move into the over 10% zone. I found this PDF very well organized and useful. It also divides up the projected cost elements in what you can do for under $1000 and of course much more.
If you do at least two things, add more lighting where you need it and remove or secure those pesky threatening throw rugs. I hope this helps you create a shopping list or at least, a think-about it list.