AGE-IN-PLACE HOME IMPROVEMENTS: A ROOM-BY-ROOM GUIDE
A resource for seniors or families looking to understand how much time/effort it would take to modify their homes to an acceptable degree for safety.
This article is an excerpt and taken with permission from Kris Lindahl Real Estate.
As homeowners enter their golden years, some might prefer to stay in their homes as long as they can — commonly called “aging in place.” This can be a more complicated task than a lot of people realize, especially if they have older homes or houses with multiple floors. Taking a systematic approach to people’s needs for aging in place yields a long list of tasks. Completing most of them in advance can provide a better guarantee of accessibility for residents even decades into the future. This guide helps homeowners determine various aspects they should consider in each room, and ways they can improve their accessibility. Although most people might not require every measure in order to be able to remain independent in their homes, the knowledge will make planning the most important home improvements more effective. On the other hand, some may decide these modifications are not realistic for their current situation and will opt for moving to a new home or assisted living community. At the end of the day, housing choices are all about what makes the most sense for an individual's wants and needs, and knowledge can help us make these informed decisions with confidence.
Installing grab bars at a few different points in the bathroom can provide greater safety and stability for those that could benefit from assistance standing up or sitting down. Even if people do not need to rely on grab bars on a regular basis, they can be handy tools to use in recovery after injury or surgery. As a general rule, grab bars are not exceptionally expensive. Homeowners may need to install several near the toilet and shower or bathing facilities, in a variety of sizes. With a proper installation, a grab bar should support a person’s bodyweight as they sit on a toilet or climb in and out of a tub or shower.
Although installation can be completed by a savvy homeowner, some may choose to add grab bars as part of a professional bathroom remodeling project. This equipment should be rated to hold 250-300 pounds of weight. In order to do this, each end of the bar needs to be installed directly into a wall stud. In most homes, studs will be placed 16”-24” apart, which may affect the size of the bar homeowners can choose. Installation around a toilet may only take an hour or two. Placement in an existing bath or shower could require removing tiles or cutting into the shower surround. People should consult an expert before doing this, to confirm that they will not damage the fixtures.
There are a variety of sizes, colors and styles for grab bars. Ideal choices feature grips. The preferred length for the bar depends on its placement. Experts suggest using 32” bars for horizontal applications near toilets or inside the shower. Bars for vertical or angled installation range from 8”-24”. To promote safety, the equipment should leave no more than about 1.5” of space between the bar and the wall.
The most trendy flooring for the bathroom may not always be the ideal choice as people get older. Providing a surface that is fairly easy to clean with the least likelihood of injury from falling is usually the preferred option. Many homeowners considering flooring upgrades for bathrooms think of hardwood or tile, because they provide a classic and contemporary look. However, any hard, smooth surface can become slippery and make for a much more uncomfortable landing during a fall.
Before making a choice, homeowners should look at their budget and the longevity of the flooring options they want. Professionals often prefer rubber flooring because it is non-slip and offers a softer surface (although it can be more expensive). As an alternative, vinyl tile or plank flooring can give the appearance of hardwood or tile, with easy maintenance and a slip-resistant surface. Cork may feel softer and warmer under feet, but it must be properly sealed to be appropriate for bathrooms. Some people choose to install carpet, which is also soft and warm. However, it is important to understand that carpet is harder to clean and can breed mildew or mold if it gets wet regularly.
For people with joint or mobility issues, getting into and out of the bathtub can become a challenge. Homeowners can plan for this possibility by considering their bathing needs and expectations. Some people with multiple bathrooms decide to convert one bathtub into a shower-only space for convenience and accessibility. Others choose to install what is called a “walk-in bathtub.” This style of bathtub uses a small door that can be closed with a tight seal, allowing the person to get in and out with only a little clearance. People who select this option should keep in mind that they will have to wait until the bathtub is fully drained before they can use the door to exit.
Budget-conscious homeowners may prefer to look at additions to their existing bathtub layout. Besides installing grab bars into the shower surround above the bathtub, people might consider placing a non-slip coating to the base of the bathtub. There are also inexpensive grab bars that attach to the side of the bathtub with a clamp, providing a simple installation that does not require drilling into wall studs.
Click here to read the full article and access the most comprehensive guide to help you determine the best alterations for each room of the house.