3 Aging in place Renovations to be done in order of importance, according to the pros

When you’re young, you might not think about what life at home might look like when you’re older – until the necessity strikes. Maybe it’s an injury or the onset of a chronic condition, an aging family member moving in, or your own years continuing their inevitable increase.

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Although we are only 48 and 50 respectively, my (half) joke with my husband is that we will stay in our three-story Victorian until we physically can’t anymore. But thanks to a growing awareness of the need to make our homes a place where we can safely and comfortably live in the later stages of life, it is becoming more realistic to stay exactly where we want to be: at home.

Of course, preparing your home for aging in place—whether for yourself or a loved one—isn’t an overnight project. And rarely can you undertake a renovation that tackles everything at once. Implementing universal design features that are beautiful and functional ones can be carried out over several years, so that when they are needed, everything is in place.

To get some tips on how to prioritize home aging renovation projects, I spoke with a few leading experts across the United States. Here are their top three recommendations for renovating your home to prepare for aging in place.

First, you need to optimize your bathroom.

Enabling people to use facilities independently and with privacy is key, says Shannon Guzman, director of housing and livable communities for AARP’s Public Policy Institute. A bathroom that allows people at all stages of life (and with a variety of abilities) to use it doesn’t have to look like a clinical setting, she adds.

There are several aspects of a bathroom renovation that will equip it for universal use, according to Bellport. ONE zero-threshold shower takes into account any eventuality you may have with your health, says Bellport, by removing a step or curb and including an adequate footprint for a wheelchair to turn around in. The shower should also include seating, ideally built-in. grab bar is a necessity, but it can be as simple as a towel rail (that’s reinforced!) in the right place, according to Guzman.

The toilet, meanwhile, was supposed to be “comfort height” with an elongated seat, to make it easier to sit and stand. A reinforced handle here can also function as a toilet paper holder. A vanity can be modified to be open underneath to allow a wheelchair to roll in. With that in mind, it will be beneficial to add storage and easily accessible shelving elsewhere. ONE extended doorway having room for a wheelchair or other mobility aids is also key.

And because eliminating fall hazards is a major concern, installation is non-slip floors is important. Having a bidet also offers a means to stay clean and hygienic without the need for a full bath or shower, Guzman adds.

Then update the stairs and your home’s entry points.

Next is how you get in and out of the house and between living spaces. To again eliminate the risk of falls, another priority for renovation projects is to look at the entrance to the house and any stairs inside.

Outside, the decidedly non-curb-appeal-friendly metal ramp may come to mind when you think about accessibility, but it’s not the only option, according to the experts. ONE sloping footbridge that integrates with the landscaping and complements the house’s colors and materials, can be built. (Look at this ramp on a Victorian, for example!)

Indoors is an approach to switch to living room in one plan with a bath and bedroom below, or even reconstruct a railing to allow for one stair lift or elevator.

So invest in the kitchen.

Finally, a well-thought-out kitchen renovation can create a space that welcomes everyone. Several components contribute to creating a space where people of all ages and abilities can spend time cooking and hanging out. (And frankly, many – if not all – of these adaptations would make life easier for anyone regardless of physical challenges or lack thereof.)

Base cabinets should offer pull-out drawers that makes it easy to grab things, rather than having to bend down and dig for them. Upper cabinets can also be replaced with open shelves or pull-out drawers.

The sink should be open underneath (or at least have pocket-style sliding doors) to accommodate a wheelchair or other equipment. At least one counter must be between 28 and 32 inches high to allow someone to sit while they work.

To minimize burn risk, a induction hob is the way to go, and the microwave is best placed on the table, not above the stove or in a drawer. ONE French door refrigerator with a pull-out freezer is the most accessible option, and a drawer dishwasher keeps a large dishwasher door from blocking walkways.

The key to success in creating a home where you can spend many more years comes down to planning. We all grow old if we’re lucky. Instead of waiting for a world-changing event to be your wake-up call, as Bellport describes, doing the work before there’s a need can make the difference between having to move—and staying in your Own home.

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