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Smart home improvements can benefit aging in place

Posted on Monday, November 10, 2014 at 1:05:12 PM

Growing older in one's home is increasingly important to today's Americans, especially families with multiple generations under one roof. According to the American Institute of Architects, this has impacted home design trends, with more renovations focused on guest rooms, ramps, elevators and upgraded entryways.

As a result, more homes across the country could soon have customized features designed for the elderly. If a renovation for this purpose is in the works for you, Home Loan Investment Bank's Brian Harvey offered some advice on the right steps to get started.

Harvey explained that longer life spans - combined with the health issues common among senior citizens - mean homes will have to adapt. 

"Many elderly will reach a point in their lives when they need specialized environments to safely retain their independence," he noted. "Accompanying this is the trend that more seniors are choosing to modify and stay in their homes to help with their needs, rather than pursue other living arrangements, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities. There are a large number of affordable home improvements that will help a senior make their home safer and life easier."

For example, you could dedicate home improvement financing to the bathroom, flooring, kitchen and your entrance. 

"Modifying a bathroom can be extremely beneficial for one's safety - and to improve ease of use," Harvey pointed out. "Installing a walk-in tub or lip-less shower stall, single-handed faucet fixtures and grab bars near the toilet, shower and sink all offer ways to help secure what can otherwise be a dangerous area of the home."

This concept extends to other areas of your home as well. Harvey stressed the importance of even, stable floors. The edge of carpet or a rug can cause a person to trip and fall, so it is smart to remove these types of hazards, no matter how small.

In addition, Harvey suggested renovations to ensure the kitchen is a place of convenience for the elderly.

"Adjusting the height of countertops, drawers, and cabinets can make these areas more accessible and reduce the need to reach or stretch for everyday items," he said. "It is also helpful to change the hardware on drawers and cabinets to larger and easier to grab fixtures."

Finally, the entrance to your home must be addressed. While a ramp or sloped surface is beneficial, you could also add seating near your exterior doors.

"Becoming more popular is the addition of a shelf or bench just outside the main entrance," Harvey explained. "This allows for a safe place to rest items while managing to unlock and open the door. It also provides a place to sit and gather one's strength if a short break is needed."

These four areas are the big ones, but your entire home may need attention. According to Harvey, it is never a bad idea to update your lighting, furniture and stairs to ensure senior citizens can move about the home in comfort.