“Aging in place” is a focused decision to continue to live independently, safely and comfortably in your own home, while still surrounded by the healthcare, ability-related and social support you may require. Yet a recent article in the Washington Post reports that a mere 1 percent of homes are conducive to aging in place.
Here are some things to think about, when considering whether your current home and its location is well-suited to addressing your potential future needs:
- Entrances, doorways and hallways should be easy to traverse. Ideally, entryways should be on a single level (i.e. without steps to navigate) and doorways and halls should be wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair or walker if necessary.
- The kitchen may benefit from an open-concept layout that still features accessible storage. Counters should have the right height and placement to allow you to use them comfortably, even in the face of potential changes to your mobility.
- Single-floor living is the ideal. In particular, having a bedroom closer to the kitchen and entranceway will ensure you the greatest level of convenience, and may simply involve reallocating an existing main-floor room for your sleeping purposes.
- Bathrooms may need to be adjusted for your convenience and safety. Does the current height and placement of your shower, sink and toilet allow for future accessibility challenges? Can walls accommodate the placement of grab-bars? Would a walk-in shower be a better fit for your needs?
- Windows should adequate in number and sufficiently-sized to maximize natural light. This will make it easier to see when doing your household tasks, reading, and getting around your home.
- Door handles, and electrical switches and outlets should all be the appropriate height to allow you to reach them without difficulty. Doors with levered handles (rather than door knobs) are far easier to operate if your dexterity becomes limited.
- Physical location is also an important concern. Does your current home have convenient access to transportation (e.g. transit services or conveniently accessible pedestrian routes)? Is it close to amenities such as shopping, healthcare, entertainment, and community facilities? Your proximity to family, friends and neighbors is also a key consideration, as is your access to social organizations.
As has been featured lately in a New York Times article, there are professionals, recognized by the National Association of Home Builders and known as Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS), who can be hired to assist with re-fitting your home and making other adjustments to accommodate your aging in place objectives.
CAPS-designated individuals include construction, renovation, and design professionals who can assess your living environment and make physical changes, such as widening your existing doorways or installing lifts to navigate the stairs. Others are occupational therapists who can assess your safety and therapeutic support needs and recommend the necessary adjustments to your lifestyle.