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Tips for Making a Home Senior-friendly

By Karin Mangan
Tips for Making a Home Senior-friendly

The good news is--people in the U.S. are living longer than ever before. The bad news is--we haven't found a way to stop our bodies aging. The further good news is--we can do many things to make our homes work for us as we get older. The bathroom is often the area of the home that requires most modification to enable older people to continue to live independently.

Bathroom Modifications for the Young at Heart

  • Ideally, you should have a fully fitted bathroom on the ground floor for easy access. At the very least, a downstairs toilet is essential.
  • It makes sense to remodel or refit your bathroom so that it is suitable for wheelchair and walker access. The design should include a wide doorway and enough space for a wheelchair to turn around.
  • If possible, fit both a low-level and a regular-level basin--low-level for accessibility from a wheelchair or use while sitting down, and a regular-level basin to prevent the need for stooping if not in a chair.
  • The toilet should be at a suitable height so that it is easy to get on and off again.
  • A walk-in or roll-in shower and/or a tub with a seat are essential for independent living.
  • Fit sturdy hand rails next to the toilet, shower, and tub. If the walls are not strong enough, you can add reinforcement blocking to make sure the hand rail can withstand the weight of a person.
  • Fit the bathroom with non-slip flooring; the base of the shower and tub should also be non-slip.
  • The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) includes Standards for Accessible Design that could be a useful reference for your home modifications.
  • Bathrooms equipped for older people do not have to look "institutional." The last thing you want to do is create the feeling of a hospital or care facility in your own home. You can have the most modern or traditionally stylish design you want.

If modifying your home is proving difficult and expensive, it might work out more cost effective to buy a new home that could more easily be modified throughout, or even to build your own home. For example, you might need a home with no steps or stairs, wider doorways, hardwood floors, and fixtures and fittings that are easily accessible. Ask a reputable building contractor for advice about costs and what can be achieved in your home.

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