Q: I’m retired and my adult children have moved out. I really love our two-story family home, but I’m worried that it will be hard to navigate as I get older. How do I make it my forever home?
A: If you’re one of the millions of Americans now approaching their golden years, you may be asking yourself if it’s time to downsize to a smaller, more manageable home, or repurpose extra space in your current home to age in place.
The answer depends on your unique circumstances, of course. But for those who decide to stay put — at least for the time being — this is a great time to consider what, if any, modifications your home may require to better suit your needs and keep you safe as you get older.
Instead of waiting for an accident, be proactive and make the alterations your home needs now to avoid injury later. And while you’re at it, take advantage of a broad range of new technologies to make your home more secure and easier to manage.
Here are a few things to consider if you’re planning to age in place.
Create your wish list
Take a close look at the rooms in your home to determine which ones are suitable for your new lifestyle and which ones still need some work. Some may only require minor changes, while others may need to be completely repurposed. Once you know what changes you need, prioritize the items you need most on a wish list and devise a plan to implement them.
Focus on improving mobility
Many empty-nesters hire expert remodelers to make their homes easier to maintain. If stairs are a potential problem, moving a master bedroom and laundry room to the ground floor can solve it. This remodel can add significant life to a home you love and remove the urgency to move to a single-story home.
Increase livability with aging-in-place features
Building professionals who have earned the National Association of Home Builders’ Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) designation have received training on how to build or renovate a home so that the occupants can live in it safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of their age. According to local remodelers, some of the most popular aging-in-place remodeling projects include:
- Grab bars in showers and near toilets
- Taller/elevated toilets
- Curb-less entry showers
- Widened hallways and doorways
- Additional lighting in interior and exterior areas.
Utilize the latest tech
Smart-home technology is changing the way we live. Motion-sensor light switches can illuminate a room as soon as you enter, while a connected-home security and monitoring system can be configured to send for help in the event of a fall or other accident. With a door camera and microphone, you can see who is on your front porch even if you’re not home. A smart refrigerator will notify you when you’re out of milk, or better yet, automatically place an order for milk delivery from your local grocer. If you can dream it up, there is probably a tech solution for it.
Expand your space
Depending on the age of your home, you may discover that your master bedroom or bath are simply too small for easy access. Look for opportunities to expand these rooms into adjacent, unused or underutilized spaces. A remodeling professional can help you figure out your space-expanding options. They can also help you open up your floor plan so it’s easier to navigate. Making such changes will not only create a home well-suited for staying, it could also increase its value if and when you eventually decide to sell.
For more information on the most effective strategies for remodeling your home, visit a Master Builders of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS) member at the upcoming Seattle Home Show on Feb. 15–23. Melissa Irons is marketing and operations manager at Irons Brothers Construction Inc., a member of the MBAKS. If you have a home improvement, remodeling, or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of MBAKS’s more than 2,700 members, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.