Home help: Renovating to age in place? Focus on bathrooms, kitchen
No one relishes the prospect of having to move out of his or her home due to age-related health, mobility or dexterity issues. In fact, more than half of homeowners 60 and older say they intend to stay in their current homes indefinitely, according to a recent survey by Houzz. Fortunately for people who want to stay put, a range of home improvements can make it easier to remain in your home as you grow older.
In fact, 60 percent of those who plan to age in place already made renovations in 2014, and 52 percent plan to renovate this year, Houzz found. What’s more, if cost is what’s holding the handful of non-renovators back, targeting key areas like bathrooms and kitchens can improve a house’s long-term livability even on a modest budget, says Lee Saunders, founder of Adapted Living, a California-based company specializing in aging-in-place design work. Founded in 2007, the company has helped thousands of homeowners redesign their houses to facilitate aging in place.
“We’ve seen steadily increasing demand for this kind of design work and products,” Saunders says. “The growth in the industry and availability of products has been huge. Today, the biggest challenge we have is getting people to understand they don’t have to settle for an industrial or commercial look in order to renovate their homes for aging in place.”
Chris Peterson, a regional sales director with Saniflo, agrees. As the aging-in-place trend has grown, the company has seen increased interest in its products among older homeowners who are renovating.
“Budget is typically a consideration for these types of projects and above-floor plumbing is often more cost-effective than traditional plumbing for homeowners who need to add or relocate a bathroom or reconfigure a kitchen,” Peterson says.
Homeowners can maximize the value of their renovation dollars by focusing their aging-in-place improvements on bathrooms and kitchens, Saunders adds.
Better function in bathrooms
Often when people develop mobility or dexterity issues, they find their existing bathrooms are not in a convenient location in the house, or aren’t configured with safety in mind. They may need to add a bathroom in a small space or reconfigure the ones they have. When renovating an existing bath or creating a new bathroom where one did not previously exist, homeowners should keep key considerations in mind.
Multiple light sources can help reduce glare and shadows – two dangerous visual effects in bathrooms, where most home falls occur. Flooring material should be slip-resistant and grab bars are essential in showers, bathtubs and near toilets. Shower heads should be on a slide bar that allows the spray to be raised or lowered depending on the needs and height of the user. Showers and faucets should be controlled by levers, rather than knobs, and all showers should have thermostatic controls to reduce the risk of burns.