If you’re approaching retirement or already there, you might be thinking of downsizing to a home that will be accessible to you as you get older. Alternatively, you may say that you never want to leave your beloved home. Here’s a reality check: Along with the memories, your home may also be filled with stairs, narrow doorways, hard-to-reach cabinets, and hard to maneuver bathrooms. Many people who are adamant about not leaving their homes adapt them so that they can age in place.
Fortunately, there’s universal design technology available that can make many homes work for people with all levels of mobility and dexterity. Whether you can adapt your home with accessibility features depends on the age and style of the home, as well as your willingness to spend money to make necessary renovations and updates.
How accessible could your home be? Here are some questions to ask yourself about your home, along with some possible fixes. How many of these could you implement in your home?
How do you enter the home?
Multiple stairs, especially ones that are steep, can be difficult as you become less agile. Sturdy railings can help you make your way into the house as long as you have some mobility, but if you become wheelchair-bound, you will need a ramp. Outside of your home, you will need enough clearance to have a ramp built with a gentle slope. Once in the door, you need to have enough space to maneuver with or without a chair.
How many floors does your home have?
Ranch homes on a slab are ideal for aging homeowners, as there are no steps between floors. If you have a bungalow with a basement, you need to have your laundry facilities and any other essentials accessible to you on the first floor. Two-story homes can be nightmares to make accessible. Most homes lack elevators, and stairway lifts are costly.
Where are the bedrooms and bathrooms?
You’ll need a master suite and a full bath on the main floor to accommodate your needs. If you decide to turn a den into a bedroom, the bath should be nearby
Are there other features that will be difficult to navigate?
Uneven floors raised door thresholds, skinny doorways and sunken living rooms create challenges when you’re not steady on your feet or are wheelchair-bound. Even traditional doors that open and close can be in the way, pocket doors that slide into the wall create fewer impediments. Doorknobs that require twisting create problems for arthritic hands, so lever openers are ideal.
How safe is the bathroom?
Assuming there is a full bath on the main floor, there are changes that need to be made to make a bathroom convenient for older persons. Traditional toilets are too low — higher models make accessing the toilet easier. No threshold showers with seats or walk-in bathtubs provide the ultimate convenience for seniors, but even sturdy bars are helpful in preventing slips.
How easy is it to get items from cabinets?
Cabinets that to go to the ceiling offer poor accessibility to someone who can’t climb a stool or reach high above their head. Low cabinets and storage drawers help those in wheelchairs pursue the tasks of daily life.
Can you make the necessary change at a reasonable cost?
While there is a remedy for any accessibility issue in the house, making the changes is not always possible due to space constraints, layout, or costs. Ironically, some people try to stay at homes that don’t work, so they can maintain their independence. Lack of accessibility takes away freedom and independence.
Roy Thomas SRES® (Senior’s Real Estate Specialist) is a REALTOR® with Sutton Group Professional Realty. Since 1991, Roy specializes in helping retirees with their later in life real estate transactions. Call Roy at 902-497-3031 or contact Roy here