Aging-in-Place: How to Add Comfort and Convenience to Your Home, Now and in the Future

It’s not surprising that a majority of Americans after age 55 prefer to stay in their homes. The good news is, there is a whole industry dedicated to helping people modify their homes. According to the nonprofit organization Rebuilding Together, 80% of those aged 50 and older own their own homes, and 92% of them want to age in place. For many seniors, living in their home is not only important to their emotional well-being, it’s often more cost-effective than other housing options.

Problematic house design can force many homeowners to leave their homes —due to dangers of falling in the shower or bathtub, challenges preparing meals when cabinets are out of reach, or the inability to take the stairs to get to a bedroom on the second floor. Aging-in-place can be a wonderful alternative that gives homeowners the freedom to stay in their own homes while maintaining their friendships and community ties.

A good place to start is universal design, which refers to products/selections and space planning that can be used by the widest range of people. Similar to how you would approach an insurance policy, the best time to think about universal design is before you develop significant health or mobility issues.

When evaluating the prolonged comfort and convenience of your kitchen, for example, there are several questions you should ask yourself:

  • Are cabinets easy to open?
  • Are dishes easily reached?
  • Can you sit while preparing meals?
  • Are countertops at a comfortable level?
  • Are stove controls easy to see and manipulate?
  • Do kitchen rugs or mats pose a slipping hazard?
  • Can you reach and easily turn on the faucet?
  • Is there enough light?
  • Is there enough space to move within the kitchen (accommodating the width of a wheelchair)?

When planned carefully, home modifications can meet the exact needs of each homeowner so that they can continue to perform the tasks necessary to care for themselves and safely move about their home, for many years to come.

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