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AARP Home Fit

The Room-by-Room Home Fit Tour

Lessons in lifelong home livability

AARP Home Fit Guide

All kinds of homes can be lifelong homes. — Getty Images

Now it’s time to take the tour (albeit it an imaginary one) for a room-by-room lesson about the design elements and safety features that help make a home livable for people of all ages. (This concept is often referred to as Universal Design.) Before we get started, have Worksheet #2: My Room-by-Room Home Fit List (PDF) handy so you can jot down notes and ideas for your home.

A Message for Renters: Many of these suggestions are doable even if you don’t own the house or apartment where you live. For changes that will require some remodeling or installation work, you may need to seek permission from the property owner.

Start Here > ENTRANCES AND EXITS             

In a “Home Fit” home …

  • there are handrails on both sides of all steps and stairways

  • doors have lever-style handles, which are easier to use than knobs

  • exterior doors feature deadbolt locks, which are more secure and less likely than door handle locks to result in a person being accidentally locked out (or in)

  • there’s an outdoor bench or table near the entrance door for placing packages while locking or unlocking the door

  • there’s a no-step, no-trip threshold. (It could even be painted a contrasting color from the door and floor for better visibility.)

  • there are exterior floodlights with motion sensors

  • outdoor light fixtures have sensors to automatically turn lights on at dusk and off at dawn

  • the address numbers are visible from the street so emergency responders can locate the home

  • exterior pathways don’t have holes, loose bricks or uneven pavement

  • paths are free of leaves, moss, mold or other slipping hazards

  • there are no scatter or throw rugs on the front stoop or inside foyer

  • there’s a well-placed security peephole or viewing panel on the exterior door

  • there may be a camera or other electronic system for seeing who’s at the door

  • hallways are free of clutter and, ideally, are at least 42” wide

  • doorways are at least 36” wide, or made that wide by installing swing-away or swing-clear hinges instead of traditional door hinges


In a “Home Fit” home …

  • exterior and interior stair treads are in good condition with no weak or missing steps, loose bricks, raised nail heads, etc. (If the steps are in bad shape they should be repaired or replaced.)

  • carpeted steps feature a tightly placed, woven low-pile carpet with thin padding. (If the carpet is patterned, the pattern isn’t so busy it makes the steps hard to see.)

  • uncarpeted steps feature non-slip adhesive strips

  • there are handrails on both sides of stairs and they’re placed at a proper height and tightly secured to the walls

  • there’s a light switch at the top and bottom of the stairs and it controls a fixture that provides light to the entire staircase

  • all steps and stairs are clear of clutter  

Now Get Cooking in > THE KITCHEN

In a “Home Fit” home …

  • there’s suitable task lighting for the sink, stove and other work areas

  • the cabinets and drawers have easy-to-grasp D-shaped handles rather than knobs

  • the stove or cooktop controls are near the front of the device so the cook doesn’t need to reach over the flame or hot pots. (Caveat: Unless the controls can be locked, this is not a great option if young children live in or visit the house.)

  • if a user has diminished vision, the controls for the stovetop are easy to see

  • an ABC-rated fire extinguisher is in an easy-to-reach place

  • the step stool features non-slip steps and a grip handle. (By the way, it goes without saying but we’ll say it: Never climb on chairs or countertops to reach high items or areas. It’s not safe.”)

  • there’s adjustable, pull-down or similar shelving for safe access to upper cabinets

  • there’s pullout cabinetry or shelves beneath counters and Lazy Susans in corner cabinets

  • the kitchen faucet features a lever-style rather than turn-style knobs or handles

  • the sink faucet is pressure-balanced, temperature-regulated and kept at 120° F

  • countertop workspace has knee clearance so a person can work while seated. (This can be achieved by installing a pull-out work surface or by removing lower cabinet doors and shelves.)

  • the floor is not waxed because wax is too slippery! Newly-cleaned floors are not walked on until the surface has completely dried 

Next page: Bed, bath and beyond. »

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