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Senior Living: Home Improvement Do's and Dont's - Aging Wisely

a walker in senior housingAccording to the National Association of Home Builders, nine out of 10 people over age 50 are committed to living in their own homes for as long as possible. In order to make this work, many people need to make home improvements to ensure maximum mobility when physical health declines.

According to, companies and organizations, including the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), are offering assistance to make homes more livable and safe as they age. The NAHB offers a three-day course that teaches contractors and remodelers techniques and strategies for making age-appropriate modifications to homes.

In addition to this list of senior living home improvement tips, there are minor modifications and resources that can make a huge difference in home safety.  Check out EasyLiving’s Fall Prevention Checklist for a review of home safety.  Consider getting a professional home assessment done by a geriatric care manager for a wide array of custom recommendations for your safe senior living.  This advice, the resources and tips a geriatric care manager offers can be invaluable to healthy aging in the comfort of your own home.

Here are some do’s and dont’s as you approach a home remodel to better equip your home for healthy senior living:

Don’t Neglect the HVAC System

Upgrade to energy-efficient heating and cooling systems to optimize savings on electricity. The National Association for Home Builders recommends getting units that can be installed in an easily accessible location to change the filters without using a ladder.

Do Widen Narrow Door Frames

Many older homes feature narrow doorways that aren’t handicap accessible or navigable with a walker. Have door frames widened to provide at least 32 inches of clear width. Replace any doorknobs on interior doors with levered hardware.

Don’t Skimp on Lighting

Make sure that light fixtures have at least two bulbs in vital areas such as the entry way, bathrooms and kitchen. This way, when one burns one, your parents won’t be relegated to darkness while waiting for someone to come change it. Add task lighting in kitchen work areas, near the computer and at the bedside to prevent eye strain. Install a soft-glow LED in the hallway to gently illuminate the space at night and prevent falls.

Do Install an Alarm System

Elderly people are often targeted by burglars and a security system can help thwart criminals. You can check out various options online; for an example check out a home security review of LifeShield.  Whatever system you choose, post the yard sign and stickers that come with the system in prominent places of your parents’ home. Often just seeing that a house is protected by security is enough to convince burglars to move on to an easier target, according to 

Consider the added security of a personal emergency response system, with a call center available in case of a fall or other concern.  Many of these systems offer no or low cost installation, with a monthly fee to cover the monitoring costs.  It is best to go with a system which has flexibility regarding cancelling services, in case your needs change.

Don’t Go Without a First Floor Bathroom

If your parents live in a multi-story home and don’t have a bathroom on the first floor, AARP suggests you add one. While it may seem like a big expense, it’s really an investment that can also pay off should your parents decide to eventually sell the home.  If putting in a new bathroom (or remodeling a current one), review the accessibility and safety issues since the bathroom is where seniors often fall.

Do Update the Shower

Get rid of that bathtub/shower combination and replace it with a handicap-accessible curbless shower. Getting in and out of a bathtub and shower combination can be dangerous as your parents’ agility declines. Install a bench seat in the shower and wall handrails in and out of the shower to safely maneuver in and out. Adding recessed shelves are great because they’re at arm’s level and will stop your parents from having to reach down to the floor or up to the shower rack.

Don’t Forget the Toilet

Upgrade to a taller toilet basin and install an elevated toilet seat for ease of use. If your parents have knee or back problems, install grab bars on the wall to make it easier to get up. Make one bathroom the go-to bathroom for your parents with the right accessories and toiletries accessible.

Do Get Rid of Carpeting

Carpeting can be difficult to move around on for those who use a walker or wheelchair. Replace carpet with hardwood flooring, tile or another smooth surface that’s ideal for rolling wheels.  Be aware of the dangers of throw rugs as well, which can pose a major risk for falls.  These can be secured with double stick tape, but the best solution is to remove them.

We can help!  We offer home safety assessments and our expert care managers know a wide array of resources to help with minor changes, large remodels, home medical equipment and various programs and assistance in your home.  By bringing you our experience, we can often suggest no or low cost changes that can make a big difference!

You can reach us at 727-447-5845 to find out more or complete our request for a phone appointment to answer your questions.

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