For many, home remodeling might seem like an optional luxury. Sure, a modern, updated bathroom or kitchen sounds nice, but is it really necessary? You might be surprised to hear that in many cases the answer is yes. More and more homeowners are choosing to remodel; not only for aesthetic purposes, but for improved functionality as they age. According to AARP, 87 percent of adults age 65+ want to stay in their current home and community as they age. Among people, age 50 to 64, 71 percent of people want to age in place. It makes perfect sense that if you’re planning on living out the rest of your life in your current home, structural changes should be made to accommodate your transition into your golden years.
As much as we hate to think about it, aging is inevitable. Things that might seem easy for you today – tasks as simple as turning a round doorknob or stepping over the edge of the bathtub – might be challenging for you several years from now. The best time to do renovation projects that will help you age comfortably in your home is when you don’t yet need those features. Putting it off until something happens could end up costing you more and become a much bigger hurdle than if it were done ahead of time.
While some aging in place updates are structural, such as replacing a shower-tub combo with a curb-less shower or widening doorways to accommodate wheelchairs, there are many updates that can easily be done in one afternoon. Some of these potentially do-it-yourself projects include swapping out all round doorknobs for levers, installing sensor faucets, replacing the flooring with non-slip options, adding a pull-down seat in the shower, and installing a grab bars in the bathroom. These are small changes that might seem insignificant now, but you may appreciate having them later. Even an expensive project can be worth the investment if it prevents the need to relocate later on. This is especially true if you consider the high cost and emotional impact of moving into an assisted living center because your home is no longer suitable for your needs.
Another reason it’s better to remodel for aging in place now, if you anticipate a big-ticket renovation, is that qualifying for a home equity line of credit or home equity loan is typically easier when you are still working. If you wait until you only have retirement income, it may be harder to qualify for a loan. Also, if you are able to do so, financing a renovation now will allow you time to pay it off prior to retirement.
Here are some tips for integrating age in place features into your home:
Choose age-friendly appliances: You don’t necessarily have to replace all of your appliances at once, but as you replace them over the next several years, look for designs that work well if your mobility and dexterity declines. For example, motion-sensored faucets in the kitchen and bathrooms are easier to operate than manual faucets. Under-counter microwave drawers are great alternatives to traditional microwaves as they are easier to access and are safer for lifting out hot dishes. A comfort-height toilet, which sit about two or three inches higher than usual, makes it easier to use as you age.
Incorporate age-friendly design features into every project: If you’re considering a kitchen or bathroom remodel, it’s a perfect opportunity to include features that can be helpful later on. For example, we always suggest widening the doorways in bathrooms as a part of your remodel to allow ample space for a walker or wheelchair. We also almost always install blocking in the shower walls for grab-bars to be easily installed in the future. Having them already in place will save you time and money without requiring the whole wall to be opened up again.
Keep lighting in mind: Our clients are always impressed with the difference strategically placed LED can lighting makes in the appearance of their home. Often times, this is a design feature that is overlooked by homeowners while they are planning their remodel. Whether you’re replacing a rectangular box light in the kitchen, a single light kit in the living area, or a fluorescent vanity light in the bathroom, can lights improve the overall brightness and visibility of a space, making it safer and more comfortable as you age. Above the standing area in the shower, over the staircase, or above the food prep station in the kitchen are all great examples of where can lights would be the most helpful for injury prevention. Again, the best plan is to have the lighting addressed during your home remodel instead of trying to get it done separately at a later time.
Another neat idea to consider for better lighting throughout the home is to have sun tunnels installed. Sun tunnels are cylindrical tunnels lined with mirrors that reflect natural sunlight. They are surprisingly bright and look just like can lights from the inside of the home. These tunnels are significantly cheaper than large skylights and also save money over time as they do not require any electricity to brighten a space.
Create an easy entry to your home.The majority of homes have some sort of steps at the entry, which could be an issue in the future. If you currently have a two or three step entry, consider a landscaping project that includes a gently inclined walkway, eliminating the need for stairs. Installing a wheelchair accessible ramp is also an option, although having one installed in the very front of your home could make it more susceptible to break-ins; disabled or elderly homeowners are often easy targets for burglars. If a wheelchair ramp is required, try to have it installed in the back or at a side entry of your home where it’s not as visible to those passing through the neighborhood.
Work with a home designer that is familiar with aging in place. The best thing you can do if you want to prepare your home for aging in place is to work with a designer that is knowledgeable and experienced in that area (like Medford Design-Build!) There are so many things that can easily be overlooked, especially if you are completing a major remodel and want to include aging in place features. A designer that knows what features and amenities should be included will ensure nothing is missed when it comes time to complete the construction.
While preparing to age in place might not seem like an immediate concern, the best time to do it is now. If you are considering remodeling your home, we would be happy to chat with you about ways to strategically incorporate aging in place features into your design. Our team of designers can determine the best options to meet your needs, for both the present and the future! Contact us today for more information!
The Medford Design-Build Team