By Beverly Nelson
One of the hardest lessons of aging is discovering that even if your home is where you lived for many years, the changes you're experiencing could make it an unsafe place. Thankfully, there are alterations you can make to help you age in place comfortably. Here's how to bolster your independence and safety as you grow older.
Preferences and Professionals
According to surveys by the American Association of Retired Persons, 76 percent of Americans over age 50 would like to age in place. If you'd prefer to remain in your own home during your golden years, sometimes making a few home upgrades can help secure your independence. Many helpful modifications require little skill or money, but there are some changes that homeowners would be better off hiring a contractor to complete. If a project goes beyond your level of expertise, hiring a contractor can actually save you money. Not only do pros have training beyond what the layperson has, they often can get supplies and materials for reduced rates.
If you decide to hire a professional for any home renovations, be alert to common contractor scams, such as requesting payment upfront or offering a lower price due to not having insurance or a license. It's important to check references, and make sure you communicate clearly about exactly what work you want to be done. Estimates should be completed in writing, although you ought to prepare a little wiggle room in your budget in case things don't go exactly as planned. Always discuss your expectations with your contractor, and if you have a cap on how much your project can cost, make that clear before work begins.
Process Your Priorities
When it comes to home alterations, there is an abundance of options you might wish to consider. For instance, many seniors consider the bathroom the first order of business when it comes to making changes, as the combination of water, soap and slick surfaces can be a recipe for disaster. Review an aging-in-place remodeling checklist to help you decide what your priorities are, and what is best in your situation.
There are many changes you can make in your living environment that promote safety as you age. As an example, falling is a major risk for seniors. There are many reasons seniors fall, such as waning eyesight, reduced strength, health conditions and side effects from medications. However, by clearing slipping and tripping hazards, you can make it easier to navigate around your home. Area rugs, cords, ottomans and so forth all be should be removed or secured. Improving your lighting can also be a boon. Motion-activated lights, touch lamps, nightlights and brighter bulbs brighten spaces for safer maneuvering.
More Advanced Projects
Certain kinds of home improvements can be taken on by a handyman, or if you're inclined toward more skilled work and have the tools, you might try them yourself. As Lowe's points out, a handyman differs from a contractor in that they don't need special licensing. Small jobs, such as installing grab bars in your bathroom and replacing your commode with a taller one, you might try to tackle yourself, or you might hire a handyman to complete. If you're planning a larger bathroom remodel, such as adding a threshold-free shower, boosting floor space and replacing your floor tile with a nonslip option, a professional contractor should take on the work, and then rolling grab bars and a commode into a contractor's job makes more sense. Kitchen renovations, or any other significant remodel, would also warrant reaching out to a pro.
Having a safe, comfortable home can make all the difference for seniors who wish to age in place. Evaluate your living environment, and decide which projects are your priority. That way, when it's time to hire help, you know what to expect. By preparing carefully, you can make your projects go smoothly, and you can look forward to staying home throughout your golden years.
Beverly Nelson is the creator of StandUpForCaregivers.org, which aims to help protect and advocate for the health and well-being of adult caregivers.