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Renovating Your Home for Aging in Place

By Rebecca Lake

Published July 13, 2023 • 4 Min Read

Remaining in the comfort of your home as you get older may be important, if you place a high value on your independence. There are also financial benefits to aging at home, as it means avoiding out-of-pocket costs associated with a retirement or nursing home stay.

Changing mobility may wrinkle your plans if your home becomes more difficult to navigate. Making some home renovations could make it a safer, more comfortable place to live as you enter your later years.

5 smart home renovations for aging at home

How much work you need to do on your home can depend on its current layout and features and any specific mobility challenges or health issues you anticipate. When deciding which projects to tackle, it’s helpful to consider what may benefit you now and in the future.

1. Upgrade the bathroom

Bathroom modifications may be necessary to make everyday tasks simpler and more accessible. For example, some of the changes you might consider include:

  • Lowering sinks to a more comfortable height if you utilize a wheelchair

  • Choosing a toilet with the right comfort height makes standing and sitting easier

  • Installing grab bars near the toilet and in the shower

  • Adding a shower chair and replacing the existing shower head with an adjustable hand-held option

Those smaller renovations typically don’t cost a lot of money, but you may consider some bigger projects. For example, it might be necessary to expand the bathroom to allow easier access for a wheelchair or convert a half-bath to a full bath.

2. Widen doorframes and replace handles

Widening doorframes may be necessary to accommodate a wheelchair or walker. For instance, if doorframes are currently 32 inches wide, you may need to expand them to 36 inches to allow for clearance on both sides.

You’ll likely want to hire a contractor for this type of home renovation project, as they’ll need to make sure that moving the door frame won’t impact any load-bearing walls. A contractor can also help with any rewiring that may need to be done if widening doors requires you to move light switches or plus.

While you’re widening doorframes, you might consider swapping out door handles as well. A lever-style handle may be easier to use if you develop arthritis or lose some grip strength as you get older.

3. Update the kitchen

Lowering cabinets and kitchen cabinets can help with accessibility if you’re a wheelchair user or rely on a scooter at home. How time- and cost-intensive this type of renovation can depend on how many cabinets you have to move and how much you need to lower them.

While lowering kitchen cabinets, you might consider replacing existing cabinet pulls with ones that are easier to grip. It’s also helpful to think about your refrigerator’s functionality.

For example, a side-by-side model with a bottom freezer might be more convenient than traditional options. You could also consider a smart refrigerator that offers hands-free opening and closing.

4. Evaluate flooring

Non-slip flooring is an important safety feature to consider when aging at home. Traditional hardwood floors may not be the best option — consider replacing them with carpeting, non-slip vinyl or cork.

When choosing flooring, consider overall safety first, followed by its care requirements. Carpeting, for example, can provide cushioning in the event of a fall, but it may require regular vacuuming to minimize the accumulation of dust and allergens.

5. Add a wheelchair ramp or stair lift

If you or a loved one uses a wheelchair, walker or scooter, a ramp will be a must-have home renovation for aging at home. Constructing a sturdy ramp that’s the proper height and width can make it easier to get in and out with minimal assistance.

A stair lift can also help transition between different floors if you live in a multi-story home. Lifts allow you to move comfortably from one level to another while helping reduce fall risk.

Paying for home renovations for aging at home

Once you’ve decided which renovation projects to work on, the next step is figuring out how to pay for them. You could draw down your savings to cover expenses, but that may not always be ideal. You may choose to explore home improvement financing options instead. Comparing the different possibilities for funding home repairs can make finding the best one for your budget and needs easier.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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