Guide To An Accessible Home for Seniors

In this latest article from author and caregiver June Duncan, June tells us all about the things to look for when considering a home that will be the most user friendly for aging adults.  Most experts agree that living independently in your own home is the preferred alternative as long as it is safe to do so.  Looking for a new home or making these modifications to your current home can significantly help you or your loved one stay in their own home as long as possible. 

June’s article is titled:
Find a Home That Will Be Accessible As You Age In Place“.

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 As we get older, our needs in a home change. We no longer need enough bedrooms and bathrooms to accommodate our children or a rusty swing set in the backyard. While we may still be able to navigate stairs with ease, we know those stairs will get more difficult as we age. You might consider buying a new home that is more accommodating to your needs as you grow older.

 Accessibility is becoming more available now that people are living longer and staying in their homes as they age. Services are more available to make aging in place a possibility. If you’re thinking of shopping for an accessible home, talk to your real estate agent about your needs. She will have an idea of where to look.

 If you need to hire a contractor to make modifications in your new home or existing one, make sure he or she is experienced in home accessibility and understands the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. While the ADA does not enforce accessibility in homes, the ADA guidelines will make the modifications more readily accessible by all.

 Here are some things to look for in an accessible home.

 An entryway that has no stairs — Climbing a bunch of stairs to get into your home is no fun when your knees hurt.

 Wide doors and hallways — If you’re ever in a wheelchair, even if it’s only temporary, you’ll appreciate this. Moving in a walker can be tough when the halls are narrow, too.

 Lots of light — If it’s not natural light, many light fixtures and lamps will help. Angie’s List advises, “Make sure hallways are lit with automatic night lights, which will assist in navigating your home in the dark.”

 A walk-in shower or tub — Climbing over the side of a tub can be dangerous if you have trouble with balance. Make sure there are grab-bars installed, as well as a non-slip surface.

 A raised toilet seat — You can buy a seat that will raise it to a better height or you can buy toilets made especially for accessibility. When your knees aren’t as strong, raising yourself off the toilet can become a challenge.

 Lever door knobs — Many older homes have round door knobs because that’s what we’ve always had. But doorknobs made of levers are much easier to open for those who have arthritis. Gripping and turning can be very painful, but pushing down on a lever is much easier.

 A wider kitchen — Having a wider floor area in your kitchen will make wheelchairs easier to navigate. You want to be able to get in, but also be able to turn around and get out.

 Lowered kitchen cabinets and counters — Having at least one part of the countertop lowered or made to be vertically movable can help those with wheelchairs. Being able to sit with your feet under the counter and work is essential to being able to use your kitchen.

 Accessible appliances — Ovens can have side-opening doors, cooktops can have knobs on the front of them, freezers can be on the bottom of refrigerators, and washers and dryers can be front-loading with reachable buttons. When shopping for appliances, ask salespeople to find appliances that are ADA compliant. Many manufacturers have these available.

 If you do decide to buy or create an accessible home, you’ll be more likely to live in the home longer, without need of an assisted living facility or retirement home. The added convenience and freedom your home will bring will make all the remodeling worth it. You’ll have a home in which you’re comfortable, and your family will have to worry about your safety a lot less.

June Duncan, is the author of The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers. 
June Duncan
Author and Caregiver