Here is a basic, four-step checklist for preparing your home for an aging-in-place remodel.
Seek Professional Help
Doing a remodel doesn’t have to drive you crazy. Before you start any home renovation work, get professional advice. Most people have a friend or local handyman who could use a little "extra work." That person may have skills, but beware. An aging-in-place home remodel is a big undertaking. You want to make sure that you have an experienced professional guiding your process.
Seek out reputable design build firms and request a walk through. Ask to see previous projects to get a sense for work quality. Then, don’t sign anything binding until you’ve had a second (professional) opinion.
While most people are happy with their remodel results, you want to make sure you don’t end up as one of the many remodel horror stories.
Focus On Your Main Areas
Take a look at your home and consider where the action is. If you’re going to spend a lot of time in the garage, then the garage needs to be part of your plan. If you’re a foodie, then focus on the kitchen.
Each home remodel plan should have customizations unique to your circumstance. Remember this isn’t an aging in place plan; this is your aging in place plan.
Dialogue will help you get the best outcome possible. Discuss with your remodeler what your goals are. Explain which areas are priorities for you. List the parts of the house that need improvement. If your home design remodeler still approaches with a cookie cutter plan, run for the hills.
Let Your Light Shine Down
While lighting is not the most glamorous area, it’s fundamental to any senior home renovation.
As we age, our eyes grow weaker. Defy Father Time and increase bulb wattage for improved visibility. You should add extra lighting to critical areas of the home such as the garage, hallways and front and back porches.
Make sure the controls are accessible. Electrical controls outlets should be no lower than 18" off the floor. Breaker panel and light switches should be no more than 48" above the floor.
Set up three-way switches to allow lighting from any entry in the room. This eliminates having to cross a room to turn on the lights and cuts down on potential slips and falls. Consider making ‘the switch’ to rocker switches for easier-to-use light controls. You can access rocker switches even if your hands are carrying items.
Also, fall in love with nightlights. They are your invaluable, low-cost guardians against dangerous dark corridors. Remember, this protection isn’t just for you. A few nightlights in the hallway helps everyone get from the bedroom to the bathroom.
Create Safe Passage
The ancient Taoist philosopher Laozi said, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Make each step in your home remodel plan count. Each step helps build safety in your home. Take care with each one.
To create safe passage into your home, use closed risers on the entry path. Close off any space between steps to prevent trips and falls. Add non-slip surfacing to create extra grip and reduce the risk of slips, trips and falls. Many remodels add handrails on both sides for a little extra protection. Best practice suggests using contrasting colors with the stairs or wall for greater visibility.
On the way into your home, add a shelf beside the front door to place packages and other items. This way you don’t have to balance things while getting your keys. Make carrying those grocery bags simpler. You’ve made locking and unlocking the door heaps safer.
In fact, do Laozi one better and consider eliminating the steps altogether. A permanent or temporary ramp may help older friends and neighbors access your home. Consider the width and the slope. For every 1 cm of rise you should have 12 cm of ramp. Make sure the constructed material is weather proof to prolong the lifespan.
Texturized surfaces create safer footing. Maintain concrete surfaces by brushing a texture on them. Use deck paint with added sand to wooden surfaces.
Though not exhaustive, this list should give you a jumpstart on your aging in place plan. The key is to assess your needs and ask yourself how best you can achieve them.
Take care to understand what are the needs of you and your loved ones. Your dream home may just be a renovation away.