It doesn’t always take a big home addition, a sizable financial investment or an overhaul of the way you live to ensure that you can stay in your home as you age.
But that doesn’t mean people know which smaller upgrades to tackle. Interior designer Karen Topjian, founder of MCM Designs, who works with many clients who want to remain in their homes as they get older, advises homeowners to start by assessing their surroundings. Determine which projects may be DIY and which may be better executed by a professional, to create a safe and efficient place to age.
Topjian and interior designer Allie Mann of Case Design, both of whom are certified aging-in-place specialists, offer these ideas.
1. Change out doorknobs and other hardware
Many older homes have round doorknobs, which people can find hard to turn as they develop arthritis or lose dexterity in their hands. It’s easy and relatively inexpensive to switch your doors to lever handles.
When thinking about doors, include kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Would they be easier to open with different hardware? Also consider swapping out knob faucets for easier-to-use levers. Mann recommends installing motion-sensor faucets. These were originally designed for commercial spaces like restaurants, “but we’re seeing more and more offerings for residential use.”
2. Declutter, then upgrade storage options
To avoid tripping on the stuff that collects on floors and in hallways, set up dedicated storage areas for small items that get underfoot.
Start with shoes and slippers, Topjian says, which people often trip on at night. Create a spot for shoes in each room, like a rack next to the front door or a basket in the bedroom. Then get in the habit of placing your footwear in the designated area each time you remove it.
The same goes for grandchildren’s toys. Make sure there’s a special chest or bin in each room where grandchildren play during visits. When it’s time for them to leave, make a game out of gathering up all of their toys and placing them in that storage spot.
Topjian also suggests creating a dedicated spot in each room for reading glasses (so you won’t have to go hunting for them) and adding extra phone chargers in rooms where you spend a lot of time. Plug in your phone or tablet anywhere you sit down to relax, so you’ll know where it is and the battery will be charged.