When it comes to living independently as we age, much has to do with our surroundings. Many people wish to remain in their homes and age in place, but this is not always manageable. If you are helping your aging parents determine their options, it’s worthwhile to ask whether retrofitting or remodeling their existing home – or yours – can provide years of safe, independent living.
Of course, things like budgeting constraints, physical mobility, and willingness to embrace change will impact this decision, but below we will examine six changes that might allow your parents to age in place, either in their own home or in yours.
6 Ways to Help Your Parents to Age in Place
1. First-Floor Master Suite or In-Law Suite
If stairs are becoming an issue, creating a first-floor bedroom and full bath will be integral. Ideally, it will offer some privacy and separation from the common areas on the first floor, yet remain easily accessible to a parent with mobility concerns. If you have an aging parent moving into your home, the addition of an in-law suite offers independence and privacy while also keeping your loved one close.
2. Handrail and Ramp Installation
One of the keys to making a home safer for an aging parent is adding elements that mitigate their risk of a fall, while also making it easier and more convenient for them to get around. This includes adding handrails in stairways and other high-traffic areas and creating a no-step entryway through the installation of a wheelchair ramp to the front and back doors of the home.
SEE ALSO: Are You Ready to Upsize?
3. Grab Bar Access
Grab bars serve much the same purpose as handrails, but they are smaller and fit into more locations in the home. Grab bars are most commonly used in bathrooms, both near the toilet and also next to the entrance to the shower. They can be installed vertically or horizontally for maximum flexibility to suit your aging parent’s needs.
4. Showerhead Change-Out
This may seem like a fairly insignificant change, but adding a handheld showerhead is an important retrofit for an aging person. Having it installed low enough that it can be accessed from a sitting position will help to prevent slip and fall accidents, so make sure your parent won’t have to strain to reach it. It’s also helpful to get a model with an easy on-off switch that can be operated by arthritic or weak hands.
5. Walk-In Shower Installation
Speaking of safety in the shower, you may want to go a step further than the handheld showerhead. Climbing in and out of a bathtub, or even managing a step up into a traditional shower, can prove difficult and dangerous for an aging person. A walk-in shower – sometimes called a zero-step shower – is an expensive upgrade, but it provides additional safety for someone with mobility or balance issues.
6. Create a Hobby Room
If a walk-in shower is a more expensive upgrade, this one can be done quite cost-effectively. All it means is providing a space for your aging parent to enjoy pastimes they love and which keep them active and healthy. You can help your parent create one in their own home, or you can provide one in yours if they’ll be moving in, using existing space more efficiently. For instance, if your mother loves knitting, you can convert space that would allow her to store her yarns and tools. If your father loves reading, adding a few bookshelves and a comfy chair to a room might do the trick.
Why It’s Beneficial to Age in Place
It can certainly be costly – both in terms of time and money – to remodel a home for your aging parent. However, data from the AARP shows that 90 percent of aging adults wish to remain in their homes as they get older. What’s more, there are several mental, physical, and financial benefits to doing so.
As you and your aging parent consider options, be sure to examine whether retrofitting or renovating a home will allow them to live safely and happily.