Most Canadien settle in a home, envisioning a permanent life refuge. Achieving this vision of aging in place, though, means preparing the home now to anticipate future needs. Doing so successfully can allow older adults to remain independent, autonomous and in charge of their home security as they age.
As many as 94% of today’s older adults (defined as ages 65+) wish to stay in their own homes as long as possible.
Studies show there are numerous benefits to home-based aging, such as increased life satisfaction, quality of life and self-esteem. Maintaining familiar surroundings and connections is also a benefit, allowing older adults to remain close to friends and neighbors, keep the same doctors and visit favorite coffee shops and grocery stores.
The time is now to start planning for down-the-road needs, like modifying your home to accommodate future accessibility needs, home security and even live-in care. It is important to understand the appropriate renovations that may be required and to equip the home with modifications that are right for you and any caretakers providing attention as you age in place.
What you should know about designing a home while aging in place
Studies confirm there are benefits to keeping older adults in their homes longer, such as maintaining more independence and connection to friends and family, as well as avoiding the high costs of institutional care. Luckily, there are many options, services and helpful solutions available to help us stay independent as we age at home.
Basic home renovations
Improving the lighting in the home is an inexpensive solution that can provide an increased sense of safety and security for older adults — safeguarding against stumbling and falling, as well as break-ins. Consider adding lighting strips to stairways and other dark areas inside the home, as well as installing exterior lights that can be programmed to turn on and off, creating a pattern to deter break-ins. Nightlights are also a recommended addition — great for hallways, bathrooms and on or near steps.
Add easy-use fixtures and safety considerations
These simple home modifications are easy to implement and can have a significant impact on improving security and comfort in the home as we age:
- Install oversized light switches ($6 to $28)
- Replace faucet knobs with levers ($22 to $400)
- Use automated garage door openers ($128 to $250)
- Purchase larger digital display options for remote controls, phones, and screens ($7 to $545)
- Add grab bars or rails around the home to prevent falls and improve mobility ($14 to $100)
- Consider chair and toilet lifts ($18 – $100)
- Use cord covers to prevent tripping and falling ($10 to $50)
Update your flooring
Falls are prevalent as we age in what should be our safest environment: our home. And flooring is often the biggest culprit. Loose rugs, slip-inducing mats, and curly edges on carpets are among the most common dangers. Many preventive measures are easy, DIY and often relatively inexpensive. Here’s what you need to do:
- Secure rugs throughout the home: Use double-faced, anti-slip rug tape to secure the edges of all area rugs firmly to the floor. Or consider using an underneath rug pad, with options adhering to vinyl, hardwood and other flooring. In the bathroom, use bathmats with a good, surface-gripping backing.
- Install anti-slip flooring throughout the home: Ensuring the type of flooring installed in the home (and especially in the bathroom) isn’t slippery is an important consideration for older adults. Some anti-slip flooring options include vinyl, ceramic tiles, and even bamboo.
- Contrast for visibility while moving throughout the home: Consider varying the colors and textures of the flooring used throughout the home to provide better visual guidance, especially in transitional areas in the home, such as a sunken living room.
Advanced home renovations
Sophisticated upgrades to help current and future home healthcare needs not only add protections, they often heighten future selling prices. Keep in mind for some of these more advanced home modification tips, outsourcing to a professional may be necessary.
Widen your doorways: Even just carrying packages can make doorways impassable, so imagine providing adequate space for assistive devices like wheelchairs. To meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility standards, doorways should be at least 36 inches wide.
Add a stairlift: Unless you’re enjoying single-story living (or unless you have a downstairs bedroom and bath), many people need to navigate stairs in the home. In these cases, stairlifts are a great tool.
Keeping the home secure
Home security systems are an essential tool for being alerted to dangers you may not sense, like fire, carbon monoxide and break-ins. And these tools become even more critical for older adults. According to the National Fire Protection Association, people ages 65+ are twice as likely to be injured or killed by house fires, compared to the rest of the population.
For outside the home, consider installing security cameras, which can allow loved ones to monitor fall-prone areas around the home.
There is a lot of assistive technology available today, including devices, software programs and equipment that’s specifically designed to help people work around their challenges — from arthritis-friendly light switches and easier-to-grip drawer pulls, to computer voice recognition programs, entryway ramps and more. Here are a few assistive devices for you to consider when updating your home for current or future assistive needs:
- Clap-detection lights: Turning on lights with the clap of your hands makes turning lights on/off much easier. Plus, set the device in its “away” mode, and your lights will turn on with the detection of any sound, which can deter break-ins.
- Smart entryway: Assistive tools like key finders, keyless doors and doorbell cameras make entering the home and monitoring activity at the front door easier. Learning who is at the front door from the safety of your couch reduces the need for unnecessary movement around the home, which can also prevent accidents and falls.
- Home hub automation: Smart home options are now available to provide a one-stop solution for controlling your digital life at home, from programmable temperature controls and sophisticated home security systems to playing music and helping you keep track of appointments. For example, Amazon’s Alexa allows users to easily keep track of daily activities, call their doctor and even order food. And home hub security systems can offer older adults a greater sense of control over the safety of their home and valuables, all from the leisure of their couch.