As Jack Palance said in his Academy Award acceptance speech “getting old is not for sissies.”
It’s a journey, not a final destination. Not only do aging parents have to face changing times, so do their family members.
Aging-in-place means living in ones’ own residence safely, independently and comfortably. Instead of moving into a retirement community. It takes the entire family to prepare for the process, but it’s not that easy.
Most seniors want to stay in their homes as long as possible, and that can provide both advantages and challenges.
The intent here is to provide some tips for the adult kids on how to make the journey easier for their parents and everybody else connected with seniors in transition.
I deal with the physical issues of aging in place every day as an architect. Here are some simple tips:
Make the existing home as easily navigable and accessible as possible
Doors should be wide enough for walking with a cane, walker or even a wheelchair. Even existing narrow doors can have special hinges installed to maximize their openings.
Eliminate as many physical obstacles as possible
Building simple ramps for walking with a cane, walker or perhaps a wheelchair in the future is easy.
Move the second-floor master bedroom to the ground floor
How many homes have a “family room” which is no longer that? Converting it into a master suite may not be that complicated and provide ground floor access to the outside and the rest of the house.
Consider partitioning part of the house for a caregiver, or for a rental apartment
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Having another form of income can be very valuable. State law has made Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) easier to achieve and build.
Make bathrooms and wet areas more safe
Handlebars in the bathroom and tub are essential. Changing faucet handles and raising or lowering toilets don’t require a small home loan. Ensuring proper lighting and slip proof floors goes without saying.
Make sure the showerhead is either adjustable or has a wand. Make sure there is a seat in the shower and multiple handlebars in the right locations.
Consider simple mechanisms that are easy to operate
Door levers instead of doorknobs are easy to replace. Light switches with roller panels and awning window types are easy to open and close. Accessible and simple thermostats and easy to access lighting is important to consider.
Material choices for flooring need to be resilient
Carpeting, cork, linoleum and rubber tile are great for seniors. Make sure the floors are smooth and even.
In the kitchen, make sure there is adequate lighting that is easy to access
Make sure the cabinets are easy to get to and not over dangerous surfaces like a cooktop. Mechanically adjustable shelves that move up and down by a switch are readily available today.
It is estimated that almost 90 percent of all people over 50 wish to remain in their own homes indefinitely.
The growing senior market in America is second only to the growing millennial population. Seniors over 65 are outpacing the general population by 15.1 percent. The whole family must participate in this transition.
After all, make aging-in-place enjoyable. We’ll all be there someday.