Aging-in-Place Tips

June 20, 2019

By Doug Hanna, S+H Construction

More and more, people of my generation and older hear the phrase “aging-in-place.” It could be taken to mean standing still until you shuffle off this mortal coil, and indeed, standing still would no doubt hasten the process. But aging in place is the current term used to describe methods that allow people to remain in their homes as long as possible as they grow old. This is a subject that, quite understandably, most of us are in no hurry to address while we still have some spring in our step.

But it’s also something we would be wise to plan for before an illness, serious fall or injury necessitates these changes on an emergency basis. In 2015, the average monthly cost at assisted living facilities in Massachusetts (where our firm is located) was $5,300. Costs have since gone up significantly, and many nicer locations charge much more. We have been in the business of facilitating this trend for a number of our clients over the last decade or so, and I expect that the requests for such modifications to homes will only increase as the baby boomers age out.

Here are some changes that your older clients and their adult children may want to consider to allow them to remain at home. Most of these can be done as stand-alone projects, but full renovations will allow for better integration of all the improvements.

Lighting: Improve the lighting plan for better visibility.
Doorknobs: Lever-type doorknobs are much easier to operate.
Faucets: Touch-on/touch-off faucets might be considered for people with arthritis.
Grab bars: These are essential in bathrooms, baths and showers; solid blocking should be installed behind wallboard and tile to anchor the hardware.
Bathing: Replace standard tubs with a walk-in shower or a walk-in tub.
Toilets: These should be raised to accommodate mobility issues. 
First-Floor bedroom: Consider prepping a first-floor room to serve as a bedroom in lieu of a stair lift or elevator.
Widen Doorways: This will help accommodate possible wheelchair use.
Ramps: These need not be only for people in wheelchairs; ramps provide safer access into and out of the home, as well as allow people to wheel items into the home with ease. Then it’s there if you do eventually need a wheelchair
Elevator: This is the ultimate aging-in-place accessory and allows you full access to your home.
Stair Lifts: This is a cheaper alternative to elevators, though it is not always appropriate, depending on the client.
Slip-Resistant/Consistent flooring: Consider slip-resistant tile in baths and a consistent type of flooring throughout the home – without changes in elevation – to reduce transitions and reduce fall hazards.
No-Step Entry: Provide at least one no-step entry into the home.
Sounds: Tall ceilings, hard floors and large spaces can make hearing difficult; sound insulation in walls is one way to cut down on ambient noise in the home.
Countertops: Consider countertop heights appropriate for persons using wheelchairs.

How are you helping your clients live longer in comfort in their own homes?