Are you interested in making you home more age-friendly without a lot of cost? I have some very practical and relatively inexpensive suggestions gleaned from experience doing just that and an article in Consumer Reports Money Advisor (May 2012).
- Remove obstacles to getting inside. Make sure there are no extraneous items around your entrances and exits. Think about the primary entrance/exit into your home. A raised surface at the bottom of a door is a tripping hazard and is hard to negotiate in wheelchair or walker. According to Consumer Reports an “automatic door bottom” will solve that problem. A relatedly inexpensive spring-loaded device is attached to the bottom of a door and it lifts the insulation and re-sets it every time you open and close the door.
- Be obsessive about kitchen ease-of-use. Lever handle faucets (and levered “doorknobs” throughout the house) are relatively inexpensive and important additions. Ergonomic can openers and rubber-circle jar openers are invaluable. Look for “ease of use” when you replace appliances which means wall ovens with side hinges or stoves with controls in the front. A simple change that feels cosmetic but is very functional involves assuring finishes or edge treatments on counters are in contrasting colors. Sometimes that can even happen with a little well-applied, colorful tape.
- Make the bathroom better. Hand held shower heads are great at any age. Having two adjustable shower heads (higher and lower) is even better. Grab bars are important in the shower and near the toilet but really need to be tailored to an individual’s range of motion, strength and size of the person. Be wary of suction grab bars.
- Light your way. It’s both a mood and safety feature. Walk through your house at night with a critical eye to what is easy to see and the best place to read a good novel or crochet a scarf. Make needed changes accordingly. Multiple bulbs assure if one burns out you are not totally in the dark. Motion detectors that assure lights turn on when you enter a room are less expensive them you might think.
- Keep learning. Check out the National Aging in Place Council website www.ageinplace.org/ and find out if you have an certified aging-in-place specialist in your area. Many of them will come to your home and conduct a home safety audit—you get a personalized idea of the friendliness of making aging-in-place changes.