Home sweet home. Home is where the heart is. There is no place like home. The simple fact is, Americans love their homes—older Americans as well as younger homeowners. Contrary to popular stereotypes, most older adults do not pack up and move to warmer climates in their retirement years. According to a recent AARP study, nearly ninety percent of adults 50 and older want to stay in their current home and community as they age.
"We know people love their homes, and want to stay in their homes for as long as possible. That is why it is so important to make simple changes to be safe and comfortable in your home," says Elinor Ginzler, Director of Livable Communities at AARP. "There are easy and inexpensive ways to update your home to accommodate everyone and you don’t have to be an expert to do it. The earlier you start identifying and planning for improvements, the better your chance of enjoying your home for years to come."
There are a variety of reasons why those 50 and older want to stay in their homes—attachment to their home and neighborhood, as well as close ties to friends, family and neighbors. However, just as we do, homes themselves age too. It’s important for homeowners to make updates to ensure that their home remains a safe and comfortable environment.
Older adults, as well as their adult children, can take advantage of the fall season to prepare home for the winter season and holiday guests. The following 10 steps can make home a safer and more comfortable place:
- Install handrails on both sides of all steps (inside and outside);
- Secure all carpets and area rugs with double-sided tape;
- Install easy to grasp shaped handles for all drawers and cabinet doors;
- Use brighter bulbs in all settings;
- Install nightlights in all areas of night activity;
- Add reflective, non-slip tape on all non-carpeted stairs;
- Install lever handles for all doors;
- Place a bench near entrances for setting down purchases and resting;
- Install closet lights, as well as adjustable rods and shelves;
- Install rocker light switches; consider illuminated ones in select areas.
Low lighting, stairs with no handrails, loose area rugs, entrances with many steps, hard-to-grasp faucet handles and door knobs, and high cabinets are just a few features that make staying in one’s home more difficult. As people grow older, they risk physical challenges that can make it difficult, and sometimes impossible to stay in their homes without some degree of change to their environment. In fact, studies indicate that half of all falls happen at home and research suggests that one-third of home accidents can be prevented by easy home updates and preventative maintenance. Older adults and those who want them to feel safe and comfortable, can take easy, inexpensive steps to make home the ‘sweetest’ it has ever been.
Local hardware stores carry many of the products to make simple updates to homes. For more extensive renovations, homeowners should consider hiring a contractor who is licensed, certified and bonded to do work in that particular location. A Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) is a professional designation signaling that contractors have had specified additional training, but homeowners should still ask for documentation that the contractor is licensed or certified and bonded.