Aging in Place: Preparing the Home

Nearly 90% of homeowners approaching retirement want to stay in their homes as they age, according to AARP. Preparing ahead of time to have the ability to do so is a smart move, as the cost of aging in place can be significant. Not only do homeowners have modifications to consider, but there is also the expense of occasional in-home help or even full-time care.  Following are several recommendations, courtesy of AARP, to age-proof one’s home and maximize its usefulness throughout a person’s life. Some of the modifications can be done over a few years to maximize cash flow and minimize disruption in the home if considered ahead of time.

  • Make entrances easy to get in and out of the house with groceries or a walker. Aim for one or more entrances without steps to offer convenience and unlimited access for family, guests, caregivers and elderly adults.
  • Design the bathroom for convenience and to help prevent falls. Consider what you, your family or a visitor using a wheelchair might need to get around. Make sure the walls can accommodate handle bars, and that the sink, shower and toilet are accessible to people of all ages, heights and mobility. A door opening of at least 32 inches allows better access, and a curbless walk-in shower area is ideal.
  • Strive for an open kitchen design and varied counter heights to make it usable for various ages and abilities. Make storage accessible with pullout shelves and open shelving. Have a good mix of natural and artificial light for aesthetics as well as safety and convenience.
  • An open design layout throughout the house is popular as it enables better flow of family, guests and home health care aides (if needed). It presents fewer hallways and doors to navigate, offers greater freedom of movement and more flexibility in furniture layout, and makes an interior space feel larger.
  • If there isn’t a bedroom on the first floor, consider adding one.
  • Consider installing ramps, making the home much safer and more accessible by eliminating stairs that pose hazards. Install ramps outside at the front and back doors and inside in place of interior stairs.
  • Place outlets and switches at optimal heights and locations. Consider putting them where they can be reached while seated and by people of varying heights. Light switches that don’t require pinching or grasping will be easier to use. Doors that have lever hardware instead of knobs are easier to manipulate with a palm, closed fist or elbow when hands are full, injured or arthritic.

In addition, use slip-resistant mats in the bathtub and shower to prevent falls and feel secure when stepping in and out. It’s a good idea to place a non-slip mat by the sink area as well to reduce the risk of slipping. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) also urges all homeowners to lower their water heaters to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to preventing accidents, this decrease in temperature will conserve energy and save money. Most adults will suffer third-degree burns if exposed to 150-degree water for two seconds. Implement assistive technology to help accomplish common tasks and maintain independence. This includes: medical alert system; iPad; automated timers/reminders, GPS locators, video cameras; wireless keyboard; and stair, bed and bathtub lifts.

Aging in place may mean moving if the current home is not conducive to making the modifications required. For many, it may also mean downsizing to a home that is more suited to aging in place. A larger house may be too much to handle, requiring lots of maintenance, cleaning, and upkeep, and all of those tasks become more difficult with age.

Making one’s home safe and accommodating is one of the most important aspects of aging in place; however, there are many factors to consider before committing to this lifestyle as well. Think about what type of support will be needed if you suffer from a chronic condition and if an in-home caregiver would be helpful.

About Manchester Specialty

Manchester Specialty provides total business insurance solutions for home health care agencies. We can help you provide the following insurance lines to your clients: General Liability, Professional Liability, Workers’ Compensation, Management Liability, Cyber Liability and Non-Owned & Hired Auto insurance, among other key coverages. For more information about how we can help you protect your insureds, please contact us at 855.972.9399.