Aging in place is gaining popularity among retirees. Here’s how to prepare your home

Even before the pandemic made some common lifestyles for older people less desirable, a growing number of older Americans had expressed a preference to stay in their current home throughout retirement.

The reasons given for this desire to age in place are manifold, ranging from community ties with nearby family members to tax breaks such as property tax exemptions. And of course, there’s the cost: if homeowners can stay in their units, it may be possible to delay or forgo moving into an assisted living facility that could cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. The 2020


The cost of care survey by insurance provider Genworth Financial, for example, shows that the national median monthly cost of assisted living is $ 4,300.

For those close or retired looking to renovate, architects and designers suggest incorporating flexible design to allow homeowners to age comfortably in place. Adding universal design elements does not require a full rehab. By incorporating universal design, retirees can plan for longevity rather than infirmity, says Sarah Barnard of Sarah Barnard Design. “There are many ways to ensure our comfort and independence,” she says.

Even if homeowners aren’t planning a complete renovation, they can easily adopt a few simple upgrades that can make aging in place easier. Here are a few tips:

Small projects. Architects and interior designers say their # 1 suggestion is to invest in “smart lighting”. Homeowners can remotely turn lights on and off, program them, and adjust brightness. Installing smart lighting can be as simple as buying smart bulbs that screw into existing lamps or smart outlets for wall outlets that can be used to control street lights. Smart plugs can also automate other manual objects, such as fans.

These devices do not require a hub, or a smart home bridge, and for a few hundred dollars you can outfit a house. Smart lights and sockets are controlled by a phone, and they can be controlled by voice if connected to smart speakers like

Alexa-based devices.

Lisa Cini, senior designer and author of “Boom,” a book about aging and technology, recommends upgrading technology to automate the home as much as possible, from smart lighting to smart thermostats and security systems, and connect them to a smart speaker. for voice activation.

“I don’t think people really understand how precious it is until they get it. It’s like going from an addiction to indoor plumbing, ”she says, adding that homeowners should also invest in a more powerful wireless network to boost connectivity.

Another simple suggestion: Paint your home in contrasting colors to improve visual acuity, says John Gleichman, Certified Spec Writer at Sheehan Nagle Hartray Architects, where he checks products, among other tasks. Homeowners can use different color combinations to designate walls and floor baseboards and to showcase door trim. High contrast rugs can distinguish seating areas from aisles.

Eva Moore, regional director of architecture and planning at Watermark Retirement Communities, explains that other simple exchanges include using levers rather than buttons on doors and cabinets, as buttons can be difficult to open. for people with arthritis and installing under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen to brighten up workspaces. In the bathroom, installing a hand-held shower head allows for greater flexibility than a fixed head.

Weekend projects. Heidi Wang, a partner at WJW Architects, a firm specializing in senior residences and memory care architecture, says homeowners can improve the accessibility of kitchen cabinets by installing aftermarket sliding or folding shelves for facilitate access to the entire cabinet and make storage more efficient. .

Wall-mounted sinks allow room for the knees of seated people, Wang says, and some solid-surface bathroom vanities have edges routed to the front that can double as grab bars or towel rails. “There are some really nifty ways to hide mobility aids,” she says, adding that the sink and the floor need to be contrasting colors.

Big projects. When embarking on a large project, like remodeling a kitchen or bathroom, experts suggest looking for someone who is a Certified In-Place Aging Specialist, a designation from the National Association of Home Builders, who can suggest universal designs.

Todd Wiltse, partner at WJW Architects, explains that these specialists can give homeowners an overall rating of the home to see what can be redesigned. Current projects include widening the doors to 34 inches to 36 inches, to allow for walkers or wheelchairs. Kitchen renovations include designs such as varying heights for the countertops to accommodate both standing and sitting.

In the bathroom, Wiltse says to add plywood behind the tub and shower to give the grab bars more resilience. Adding it everywhere allows homeowners to place the bars wherever they want, or wait to install them later. “If that blockage, as it’s called, isn’t on the walls and you suddenly need grab bars, then you’ve got a problem,” he says.

A few ways to experiment with universal design and see what it looks like before the remodel begins, says Gleichman, is to request an accessible hotel room, which shouldn’t cost more than standard rooms. “This will allow you to experience how accessible bathrooms, kitchenettes and workspaces are set up and used,” he says.

Homeowners can also be inspired by taking a virtual tour of a 3,500 square foot universal design demonstration home in Columbus, Ohio, created by the Universal Design Living Laboratory, which also incorporated energy efficiency and energy efficiency. other modern design elements.

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