By Doug Hanna
More and more, people of my generation and older hear the phrase “aging-in-place.” It could be taken to mean standing still until you shuffle off this mortal coil, and indeed, standing still would no doubt hasten the process. But aging-in-place is the current term used to describe methods that allow people to remain in their homes as long as possible, as they grow old. This is a subject that, quite understandably, most of us are in no hurry to address while we still have some spring in our step.
But it’s also something we would be wise to plan for before an illness, serious fall, or injury necessitates these changes on an emergency basis. In 2015, the average monthly cost at assisted living facilities in Massachusetts was $ 5,300. Costs have since gone up significantly, and many nicer locations charge much more. We have been in the business of facilitating this trend for a number of our clients over the last decade or so, and I expect that the requests for such modifications to homes will only increase as the baby boomers age out.
Here are some changes that you and your adult children may want to consider to allow you to remain at home. Most of these can be done as stand-alone projects, but full renovations will allow for better integration of all the improvements.
- Lighting – improve the lighting plan for better visibility
- Doorknobs – lever type doorknobs are much easier to operate
- Faucets – touch on/touch off faucets might be considered for people with arthritis
- Grab bars – these are essential in bathrooms, baths and showers; solid blocking should be installed behind wallboard and tile to anchor the hardware
- Replace standard tubs with a walk-in-shower or a walk-in-tub
- Raised toilets
- Renovate baths to be ADA-compliant in terms of wheelchair use
- 1st floor bedroom – consider prepping a first floor room to serve as a bedroom, in lieu of a stair lift or elevator
- Widening doorways – to accommodate possible wheelchair use
- Ramps – a ramp need not be only for people in wheelchairs; ramps provide safer access into and out of the home, as well as allowing people to wheel items into the home with ease; and then it’s there if you do eventually need a wheelchair
- Elevator – the ultimate aging-in-place accessory; allows you full access to your home
- Stair lifts – a cheaper alternative to elevators, though not always appropriate
- Slip resistant, consistent flooring – slip resistant tile in baths; a consistent type of flooring throughout the home, without changes in elevation, to reduce transitions and reduce fall hazards
- No step entry – provide at least one no step entry into the home
- Sounds – tall ceilings, hard floors and large spaces can make hearing difficult; sound insulation in walls is one way to cut down on ambient noise in the home
- Changes to counter top heights for persons using wheelchairs
- Technology – there are many apps and technologies that allow loved ones to monitor different locations and functions in the home. One example is HomeExcept. (https://www.homeexcept.com/)
The first step is to get a trusted architect or contractor to do a safety assessment of your home, listen to your concerns, and make some suggestions. Then, it’s a matter of how much you want to tackle, and when. Here is hoping that we all get to age-in-place if that’s what we want.