Over 50? Here’s A Future-Focused Project While You Shelter In Place

Check out this Forbes article by Sara Zeff Geber

As you look around for projects to dive into during the enforced isolation and shelter-in-place directive, look around your home and ask yourself “is this the house I can safely grow older in?” This may be the perfect time to make your home more age-proof and suitable for you and your family as you get older. 

Here are some of the areas that might need attention, especially in an older home. Many of these can be done easily with minimal equipment.  

Lighting. Ensure your home has a well-lit path to maneuver around the house. 

·     Replace dim light bulbs with brighter ones. Install dimmers on the lights so you can adjust the lighting as you require and save on electricity costs.

·     Make sure you have a light switch within reach of the bed.

·     Install night lights in all bathrooms and in the kitchen.

·     Install additional switches for lamps and overhead lighting in more convenient places. Modern remote-control switches reduce the need for extensive rewiring.

Furniture. Keep only what you need, and recycle (sell, give away, donate) the rest. As the years have gone by, have you purchased or inherited more furniture than you need? A cluttered home can be a dangerous home. Why not go through your house and tag those pieces that are not in keeping with your lifestyle today. If the object has sentimental value, take a picture of it and move on. If it has been in your family for a long time, offer it to a niece, nephew, or some younger person in your family who could use it to furnish their home. If they don’t want it, give it to a charity.

Entryways and Doors

·     Replace door knobs with levers.

·     If you have stairs, check the condition of the railings. Railings deteriorate over time because they are exposed to weather in all seasons and to repeated stress from long-term use. If there is any stairway lacking a railing, consider installing one.

·     Evaluate your entryway for more serious modification at a later date if the need arises. If you have stairs, find out what it would take to install a ramp. If a ramp cannot be installed, inquire about installing an electric porch lift. New devices are being designed and marketed for older adults every year, so if you don’t need it today, there may be a new device by the time you do.

Bathroom. An uncluttered and well-equipped bathroom will offer you independence and safety as you get older. Consider the following:

·     Install grips and grab bars at a comfortable reach from the toilet and tub

·     Purchase a foldable tub seat to have on hand

·     Replace knob faucet handles with single-lever models

·     Replace your old toilet with a more modern version with a taller seat

At a later time, you may want to make these more in-depth modifications:

·     Redesign the vanity to allow a chair to roll underneath

·     Redesign your shower to be curbless, with a wide entryway for chair access or to allow an additional person to aid you in the shower

·     Remodel a ground-floor bathroom to accommodate you and a caregiver

Bedroom 

·     Reduce furnishings to free-up more space to maneuver

·     Get rid of unnecessary clutter

·     Install closet bars at various heights

·     Ensure you have a bed at the right height for you to easily get in and out

Kitchen. These modifications and enhancements will allow you to prepare meals and dine independently for as long as possible.

·     Make sure there is good lighting

·     Adjust cupboards so shelves are at reachable heights

·     Place microwave oven and toaster-oven at counter level

These are more in-depth remodeling ideas that will need to wait until contractors are working again. They also will likely entail building permits  

·     Install counters at varying heights to allow for seated or standing food prep

·     Under-counter space should have room for a chair

·     Clear pathway from food prep area to eating area

Outdoors. If you want to grow older in the home you now have, you will probably want to have easy access to enjoy your back and/or front yard well into your older years. These modification can allow you to do that, no matter your level of mobility:

·     Create no-step entry to the yard, patio, or verandah from your house. Install railings by any stairs that cannot be avoided

·     Install motion-triggered lights

·     Ensure opportunities to relax in both sun and shade

·     Include comfortable, easy-access chairs and/or a chaise for relaxing and reading

·     Have raised beds built for gardening, if desired

·     Install a seated-level potting bench, if desired

Additional ideas for making your home age-friendly and safe:

·     If your washer and dryer are in the basement or garage, move them to the main level of the house.

·     Install slip-resistant flooring in kitchen and bath

·     Remove throw rugs 

·     Because bare floors are best for mobility devices, consider removing carpeting and replacing with hard flooring

Some of these modifications may have to wait until more businesses open their doors and expert help can be hired. This list still allows you to take a comprehensive inventory of all the areas of a home that need attention to become truly age-friendly, whether you attend to them now or in the future.


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