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Stylish Home Updates That Make Aging Easier

Living spaces may not fit changing needs

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.​

VIDEO: Stylish Single-Story Home Updates That Make Life Easier

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.​

VIDEO: Tips for Multilevel Home Renovations

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.​

Lever- and touch-style faucets in the kitchen add flair and are easier to use than standard models. Pullout drawers and high shelves with pull-down organizers reduce strain on the back and cut down on balance issues, Spencer says. ​

In the bathroom, a comfort-height toilet may make it more manageable to sit and stand. Some grab bars even double as a toilet paper holder.​

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VIDEO: Reconfiguring Your Apartment for Aging in Place

Reconfiguring your space for aging in place​

Apartments work well for those looking to age in place. “Living space is usually on a single floor. Most apartment buildings maintain the exterior ... and may come with an onsite helping hand from a door attendant or maintenance staff,” Spencer says.

But even an apartment requires updates for you to maintain your independence as you get older. Make sure to speak with your landlord about adjusting the space. Many are supportive, though you may need to foot the bill.​

Though living space may be limited, be sure there is enough width — 36 inches for hallways and 32 inches for door openings — to accommodate a wheelchair. ​

Avoid overcrowding rooms and hallways with furniture and knickknacks. It’s best to remove area rugs; if you have them, secure the edges to prevent curling.​

In the kitchen, D-shaped door handles are easier to use when dealing with arthritis. Cabinets above the refrigerator can add space in smaller kitchens, but given the inconvenient location, use only for occasional cookware or seasonal table linens that stay in storage most of the time.​

If replacing a bathtub with a walk-in shower is too costly, at least swap a standard showerhead for one with an adjustable height.​

To create more storage space, install pullout bins or drawers in closets, or install double rods (the top rod can be made to pull down).​

Although it’s a minor adjustment, adding small hooks or shelves near the front door can make arriving and departing much easier.​

For more on home improvements that can help you age in place with greater ease and style, watch the videos above.​ ​

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