One of the most popular states for retirees is our Sunshine State. Older Americans tend to move and spend their later years in Florida. In 2016, the median age per state in America is 37.9 years of age and Florida has 42.1, which is the fifth highest.
Why do retirees love our state? They move here because of the homestead exemption, retirement income is exempt from state taxation, no state income tax, the cost of living is average, and the temperate climate. The downside is high homeowner insurance costs and a high probability of experiencing hurricanes - but most people feel that the pros outweigh the cons.
I moved to this state with the thought of staying here until I have a cane or I am in a wheelchair (although, I’m still hoping that I won’t need one). I also plan to live in my current home since I’m not going to a retirement home. While I was searching for ways to prepare my home for my later years, I saw that this lifestyle is called aging in place. To elaborate, it means deciding to stay in your own home as you get older. You won’t opt for a retirement community, assisted living, or move to a smaller house.
If you choose this lifestyle, you should prepare for taking care of yourself when you have a chronic disease, start looking for caregivers, understand the risks of aging in place, and make your home safer. Since I’ve been researching about the last one, I’ll share with you 14 home improvements you can do to make your home friendlier for you as you age.
1. Use LED lighting
Imagine when you’re too old to climb the stairs, wouldn’t it be harder to use a ladder? So if you need to change a light bulb, it would be really difficult. It’s also not worth it to hire an electrician to change just one light bulb. You can wait for your children or grandchildren to visit and do the job for you but it’s annoying to have a fading, blinking, or dead bulb in a room.
Before you reach that age, it’s best to replace the bulbs with LED lights. Not only will this provide better lighting, but it also lasts longer and is more durable. It’s also not that expensive and worth it in the long-run.
2. Relocate or change switches and outlets
Some light switches are placed in inconvenient spots. It can be too high, too far away from the door, or blends well with the wall. Good thing most switches can be easily lowered or relocated without having to break down the wall. If you want to try doing it on your own, here’s a video how:
While you’re relocating the switches, you should also paint or install a light switch with a contrasting color to your wall. This will make it easier to locate the switch, saving time and effort in the future.
Outlets should also be raised so you don’t have to bend too low. You may have issues with your back that will make it hard, heck, even if you’re not a senior, you may already have back problems. Make it easier for you by raising the outlets and placing them in convenient spots. Check out the video below on how to relocate outlets.
3. Get drawers and pull out shelves
Remember those times when you have just woken up, still groggy, and you go down to eat breakfast. You open a cabinet and start looking for a glass to drink water or a bowl for cereals. Searching for an item in a cabinet, especially when it’s below or above eye level is difficult.
Make it easier by replacing your cabinets below eye level with pull out shelves or drawers. You don’t have to bend down and you won’t need a flashlight to search in a dark cabinet. For cabinets above your eye level, you will need a stepping stool or small ladder. You should also have glass doors for these cabinets to avoid wasting energy searching for the thing that you need. Still, it might be better to transfer all your things in these upper cabinets to the lower one.
4. Replace handles with D-shaped ones
Even if we’re not old yet, it’s already difficult to open cabinets or drawers with small round knobs. It’s hard to grab these slippery or tiny knobs but imagine doing it when you have stiff joints or arthritis. Yikes!
Well, you don’t have to suffer anymore. You can replace these knobs with D- or C-shaped handles. It’s easier to grasp since it’s larger and you can also opt not to tuck your fingers to open them. Just make sure you have easy-glide drawers to lessen the effort in opening and closing them.
5. Change to pocket doors
What is a pocket door?
Pocket doors are doors that open by “disappearing” into a crevice inside the wall. They open and close by sliding in and out of the crevice. Some people install these in their homes because of the style and convenience. It also helps make a home senior-friendly since it doesn’t have hinges, which usually catches or prevents wheelchairs from passing through. This type of door also saves space since it doesn’t swing, meaning it doesn’t take up space on either side of the room.
If you’re planning on getting one, make sure that the door slides smoothly. It will be useless when you grow older if it’s hard to open and close. Here’s a video on how to install pocket doors.
6. Use lever handles
If you don’t have the budget to replace your existing doors into pocket ones, you can make it easier for you when you get old by replacing the round knobs. Similar to knobs in drawers, cabinets, or shelves, it will also be harder to grasp round doorknobs when you have joint pain or arthritis.
It’s easier to open your doors if it has lever door handles. These ones are easier to grip and it takes less effort since you don’t have to twist it. This also applies to faucets with round knobs. Unless you have the budget for an automatic, motion sensor, or touchless faucet, a less expensive option is to convert round knobs to a lever handle.
7. Widen your doorways
Most homes have narrow doorways, making it harder for old people to walk through, especially if they have wheelchairs or walkers. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it’s best if doorways are more than 32 inches to accommodate transport devices such as wheelchairs or walkers.
There are three ways you can widen your doorway, which is switching the swing direction of the door, choosing a different door style, or widening the frame. Here’s a guide to help you widen your doorway if you want to do it yourself.
For the widening of the frame, check out this video of how they widened the doorway of a bathroom so a person with a wheelchair can pass through it.
8. Remote-controlled blinds
I remember this old set of blinds in my old house which frustrated me every time I need to open or close it. After suffering with it for weeks, I decided to change it. Of course, I got a better model but I wasn’t able to find out if it eventually becomes harder to open or close because I moved here.
Now, even if you got one of the best ones, it could eventually be hard to open or close. This will be problematic when you're old and need a walker to move around. To avoid this problem, you can get remote-controlled blinds or motorized shades. You won’t even need to get up if you want to see the view or darken the room.
There are even some shades you can control using Alexa, Google Home, and other similar devices. Check this out:
9. Install shower bars or grab bars
As we get older, it can be difficult to maneuver around our home, especially the bathroom. Our bodies and wet surfaces don’t go together. Aside from bruises and broken bones, falls can result in head or other serious injuries.
Since most of us don’t want other people to give us a bath in the future, you can avoid falling by installing grab bars in our bathrooms and homes. It’s also versatile as you can add a horizontal one in the shower, a vertical one to save space, and a diagonal one to make it easier to sit on the toilet. These also don’t have to block your way as there are grab bars you can flip out of the way when you don’t need them.
10. Buy bathtubs with a door
Also called a walk-in tub, this is a bathtub with a watertight door, allowing a person to step into a tub without having to go over a high threshold. Another variation of this is a slide through tub, which has a bigger door and it’s almost as if the entire front side of the tub opens.
Since this is an expensive bathroom feature, you should first consider the pros and cons before buying it:
11. Install a shower seat or bench
If you don’t have the budget for an expensive walk-in tub, you can make it safer to take a bath in your shower by adding a seat or bench. It reduces the chance of slipping or falling since you will be taking a bath while sitting down. This will also make it easier to get out of the tub. Here’s a video on how you can install a shower bench.
You should also change to a handheld showerhead when you install a shower bench. This makes it easier to take a bath while sitting down. Make sure that the hose is long enough and that you can reach the shower levers.
12. Replace your faucets
Aside from replacing the lever of your faucets or getting motion sensor ones, you should also opt for anti-scald faucets. These faucets have anti-scald valves that prevent hot water from leaving the tap. It can use water pressure, water temperature, or both to regulate the water flow of hot water.
It would also be best to lower the maximum water temperature of the water heater to prevent getting burned. Make sure to properly label faucets for its hot and cold water.
You can also install this for your shower. Here’s a video on how to install an anti-scald shower valve.
13. Have slip-resistant flooring
You already know how to slip-proof your bathroom, but what about the rest of the house? You can avoid slips, falls, and trips by upgrading your flooring.
As we age, it’s more important to focus on safety and comfort. Your flooring should also be soft to avoid bruises and broken bones if you fall. It should be easy to clean and tends to stay clean as well so you don’t have to spend a lot of time and energy maintaining it.
An option you can get is rubber flooring. It’s soft, and slip- and fire-resistant. If it’s treated with water soluble wax, it also becomes resistant to water and stains.
14. Install wheelchair and threshold ramps
This one is tricky. Since you’re not sure if you’ll be using a wheelchair in the future, you may never need a ramp at all.
I am also not sure if I should install a ramp in my home but it seems like a good idea even if I won’t be using a wheelchair when I’m old. Why? Well, for starters, you may eventually have guests who use a wheelchair. It will also come in handy when you have a hard time walking up the stairs.
While you’re at it, install threshold ramps in your home so it’s easier for you to move around with or without a wheelchair. This will also prevent you from tripping on the door frames or uneven steps.