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Most people want to keep an independent lifestyle as they age, while staying in their homes as long as possible.
To do that, updates may be needed, says certified aging-in-place specialist Nora El-Khouri Spencer. To give you an idea of the types of projects that single-story or multilevel homes or apartments might need to keep them easy to navigate, Spencer provides tours in the videos below. She explains how large and small renovations, stylish updates and space reconfigurations can improve safety and quality of life — allowing you to live more comfortably now and into the future.
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“As you age, your home may not always fit your changing needs,” Spencer says.
Renovations needed to stay in your home longer
Front entrances can be tricky for anyone who uses a wheelchair, relies on crutches or a cane, or has difficulty climbing stairs. One solution is an access ramp, but they require a lot of space and a gentle slope. A contractor can help with a custom configuration, or consider an alternative entrance such as a door inside the garage, which might be more easily adaptable, Spencer says.
Small updates can make chores less of a challenge. Task lighting in kitchens makes chopping food, cleaning and reading recipes easier. In the bedroom, extra lighting helps with bedtime reading and getting up in the middle of the night.
Cabinet pullout drawers and organizers can make kitchen space more usable. “Having storage that you can pull toward you will keep you from having to bend down to reach into the back of the cabinets, lessening the strain on your back,” Spencer says.
Other improvements can help older adults avoid injury. Stairs can be made safer with secure handrails and anti-slip treads or a chairlift.
Bathrooms should be a main focus since they’re where many accidents occur. Replace a shower curtain with a door, as a curtain won’t help you regain balance during a fall, Spencer says. Grab bars inside and outside the shower and near the toilet provide even more stability.
Stylish home updates for easier living
Updating a home doesn’t mean you have to give up on style, Spencer says.
For example, a table just inside your door will help you set down bags and packages as you enter. Pick something that matches the style of your home, so it is “both decorative and functional,” Spencer says.
Consider other updates too: Storm doors serve a purpose, but they can cause injury by slamming shut and knocking you off-balance. If you have a storm door, you may want to remove it. While you’re at it, replace any thumb-latch door handles (difficult to use if you have arthritis or full hands) with a lever-style handle that needs only light pressure to operate.
A video doorbell and smart thermostat can be controlled with apps that can screen visitors and save money on heating and cooling expenses.