As the U.S. population continues aging, older adults and their family caregivers are more often seeking ways to stay in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. However, AARP research shows that while more than three-quarters of adults ages 50 and older want to age in place, one-third also say their houses need modifications to be able to do so safely and independently.
As a family caregiver, making sure your loved one’s home ages gracefully with them is important so that they are safe and comfortable. The best way to continue living independently in a home you love is to plan ahead and make changes that will benefit you today and in the future, as needs and abilities will change over time.
This can feel overwhelming, but having a plan and making even small modifications can make a big difference and benefit multigenerational households. A wider doorway and step-free entrance, for example, is good for strollers and walkers, and multiple-level counters are good for kids as well as those in wheelchairs.
Here are some home improvement tips to get you started.
Before you begin any remodeling, it’s first important to start talking with your older family members sooner than later. Don’t wait for a crisis to happen, like a fall. Do a walk-through and look around now to anticipate future needs. Changes can happen gradually through multiple conversations – just be open and honest with your loved one and ensure they feel comfortable with the plan.
Give them space to discuss their own thoughts. Address any of their concerns and what their home remodeling priorities are, and be clear about the budget.
Start with the rooms you use the most or that currently pose a challenge, like making items easier to reach in the kitchen. Then, if you’re able to, move on to bigger projects like installing a no-threshold shower or widening the doorways.
Renovations can be costly, but even small, low-cost updates can be very impactful. Make modifications that prioritize safety, but are easily adaptable for future needs.
Some local agencies can provide financial assistance for retrofits, such as grab bars, in-home safety assessments or lend equipment, such a wheelchairs and ramps. For local services and supports for older adults and caregivers, contact the Ohio’s Area Agencies on Aging at 1-866-243-5678 or visit its website to be connected to the area agency on aging serving your community.
If you are ready for more comprehensive modifications, AARP’s HomeFit Guides can help. These guides provide room-by-room check lists on ways to make a home comfortable and safe. There are recommendations for every home type and ownership status, whether you own or rent, to craft an “aging-friendly” space for years to come.
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