There’s no place like home. And if your aging parents are reaching a point where they’re slowing down and showing signs of physical and cognitive decline, you have decisions to make. One option is to encourage them to move into some sort of senior living facility. But, if your parents are anything like most, they’d probably prefer to age in place. In order to make this a realistic option, you’ll probably need to work with them to convert their existing living quarters into more “senior-friendly” spaces.
What is Aging in Place?
Aging in place is a term that’s commonly used to describe an individual’s decision to continue inhabiting the home of their choice for as long as possible.
Aging in place does not mean living fully independent for the rest of your life. As a person grows older, they may need supplementary services to help them maintain their quality of life and to facilitate different living conditions.
As an alternative to living in an assisted care or other senior living facility, aging in place yields individuals and couples a variety of benefits – including:
- Maintaining independence. When an individual lives at home, they’re afforded a certain degree of independence that simply isn’t possible at a care facility. Your parent will be able to spend their time how they please, which provides lots of encouragement and promotes a higher degree of mental stability.
- Familiarity and comfort. There’s no place more comforting and familiar than home. It features memories, cherished items, and feelings of security. Being able to wake up in these familiar surroundings can ease some of the other challenges that come with aging.
- Cost savings. The cost of living in an assisted living center with a shared room is somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000 per year (on the low end). For a private room, it can run upwards of $75,000 per year. If there’s a need for advanced care in nursing facilities, it’s even higher. Aging in place certainly has a price tag, but it doesn’t come close to approaching these levels.
There are plenty of other perks that come with aging in place, but these three stand out. Understanding them will help you have more productive conversations with your parents.
6 Tips for Converting a House Into a Senior-Friendly Home
If you have an elderly parent who is interested in aging in place, it’s never too soon to begin preparing for this lifestyle. In all likelihood, you’ll have to perform some upgrades and renovations in order to convert their current home into senior-friendly accommodations. Here are some tips:
1. Address Stairs
For an elderly individual, a fall from stairs can be dangerous and even deadly. It can result in broken bones and traumatic brain injuries – requiring lengthy hospitalization and lingering effects. As your parent ages, chronic pain, lack of mobility, and vision issues can cause them to have trouble with stairs. This makes them a primary focal point in the conversion process. Here are some improvements you can make:
- Add railings on both sides
- Get rid of carpet runners
- Add non-slip strips to the reads
- Design a resting spot halfway
- Have overhead lighting, as well as lighting along the treads
- Install a stairlift
Obviously an even better solution is to eliminate the need for stairs altogether. If it’s an option, consider moving your parent’s bedroom and other main living areas to the ground floor.
2. Deal With Tripping Hazards
Trip, slip, and fall hazards pose the greatest risk. You want to do everything you can to reduce the risk of falling. This may include:
- Getting rid of piles and clutter (like shoes, newspapers, etc.)
- Removing throw rugs
- Getting rid of unused furniture to create larger walkways
Remember that your aging parent doesn’t have as much mobility as they once had. Providing more room for walking will make it easier to navigate surroundings.
3. Upgrade the Bathroom
The bathroom can pose a threat to your parent, if not dealt with properly. Here are some suggestions for addressing this room:
- Consider upgrading to a curb less shower or walk-in bathtub
- Place a seat in stand-up shower stalls
- Install non-slip bathmats and rugs
- Raise the height of the toilet
- Install grab bars and rails
- Get a sprayer attachment for the showerhead
- Install lever faucets
This will probably be one of the more expensive rooms to convert, but it’s also one of the more dangerous rooms in a senior’s home (when left alone).
4. Make Upgrades to the Bedroom
The bedroom should also be addressed. Carpet is the ideal flooring option in this room, as it provides more grip and isn’t nearly as hard should your parent trip. You may also install grab bars by the side of the bed and/or lower the bed to the appropriate height to make it easy to get in and out.
5. Improve Lighting
As your parent ages, their eyesight declines. This can negatively impact their ability to safely move around the home. Improved lighting can help make living quarters less hazardous.
“Changes to make the home safer with light include ambient lighting for moving around the house and a bright task light available for important activities such as reading instructions on medicine containers,” electrician Bill Lewis writes.
All lamps should be on light switches or motion sensors so that your parent doesn’t have to walk into a dark room or fidget with a lamp.
6. Make the Home Entrance Safe
Finally, pay attention to the home’s entrance. Railings on steps, grippy entrance mats, and easily accessible door locks are a must!
Green Residential: Houston’s Real Estate Leader
Home is where the heart is. As cliche as those sounds, the sentiment continues to ring true. And at Green Residential, we believe every homeowner should have the opportunity to live in their home as long as possible.