As the latest generation grows older, the demand for their housing increases. Lately, more elderly homeowners are staying in their homes as long as possible or moving in with family as they age. With this increase in demand, existing housing is falling behind in meeting the needs of the elderly. More and more homes need to be upgraded to accommodate this growing demographic. Keeping aging in mind, different degrees of changes ranging from less costly to more costly additions to new construction can help.
At the lower end of cost, several things can be done to help accommodate the elderly:
1. Install grab bars in various locations throughout the residence - bathrooms, walkways, near beds, and other places that will be useful. A study of how the elderly live in their space will help determine how grab bars will help.
2. Minimize floor obstructions - remove furniture that creates clutter, remove rugs, and eliminate floor level changes as much as possible.
3. Change door hardware, plumbing hardware, etc. to allow for easier use.
4. Install hand-held shower head.
5. Install visual smoke detectors, large number phones, intercom system, and monitoring cameras.
More expensive solutions for existing houses can be:
1. Replace exterior doors that are not easily accessible, such as sliding doors.
2. Replace top freezer refrigerators with side-by-side or bottom freezer units.
3. Widen doorways for access to wheelchairs.
Finally, the most expensive solutions involve:
1. Renovating the bathroom for a roll-in shower.
2. Installing a chair lift.
3. Installing an elevator.
4. Install separate HVAC unit or reconfigure the existing unit for the elderly’s bedroom, bathroom and other separate rooms. Many times the elderly will want warmer temperatures for their rooms than the rest of the family.
5. Reconfigure the kitchen to allow total access.
All the above can be part of a renovation, a new addition or be considered in new construction to help the elderly. Site improvements such as access ramps to doors and walkways may also help. These are just a few of the things to consider when deciding to upgrade a home to accommodate the aging generation … which may be sooner than you realize.