Home Renovation Ideas for Retirees

September 23, 2022

A home’s layout and overall accessibility can make a big difference if you’re caring for retirees or disabled loved ones. Being able to get around comfortably and perform daily tasks safely such as cooking or using the restroom are important when seniors are aging at home, but not always realistic without some renovations.

Making these changes takes up resources, time, and money. But, creating a more accessible-friendly home can go a long way in helping your senior or disabled loved ones maintain their independence.

What do home modifications typically entail?

Usually, home modifications involve renovations or making additions to the bathroom and areas in the home that are frequently used.

Modifications may be small changes from installing grab bars in the shower or more intensive alterations such as adding ramps outside of the home for a wheelchair. If there are stairs in the home, installing an electric stairlift may also be an option. Here are some home renovations to consider for seniors:

Widen doorways and install a ramp

Starting with the entryway, removing extra steps and replacing them with a ramp is useful if you have to maneuver a wheelchair.

Also widening doorways makes it easier for a wheelchair to pass through and you can decrease chances of injury of running into the door frame. Interior doorways can be as narrow as 24 inches, and widening this to 32 inches would make a big difference in improving accessibility. This can be a labor-intensive project, depending on how many doorways you need to widen.

Materials and the cost of labor can run you upwards of $800 for your front door and $500 to $1,000 for installing a small ramp. Some other options for increasing the doorway space could be to change a regular door to a pocket door or install a sliding barn door which hangs from a track against the wall.

Kitchen modifications

A kitchen modification doesn’t necessarily mean you have to gut it and do a complete overhaul. Start with the needs that should be addressed and what customizations make the kitchen a safer space. It may first start with simple changes, such as making the kitchen better-lit, easier to move around in, and making the cabinets and appliances easy to reach.

Some common customizations may include installing adjustable shelves or a Lazy Susan (revolving shelves) in pantries so items can be stored and accessed at eye-level. It may also involve removing base cabinets to make more leg room for someone who is seated or in a wheelchair.

Chairlift or stair lift

If the home has two levels, adding a chairlift can be helpful to allow seniors to access the upstairs area of the home. Without one, the ground level of the home may end up being the main living and sleeping area, which could be inconvenient.

Chairlifts range in price. The kind of chairlift you get may depend on the type of stairs you have.

Stairwell handles

A common injury for seniors are falls. One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury. Not only that, falling once doubles your chances of falling again.

In homes with multi-levels, a simple way to prevent unnecessary falls is to install two handrails for each stairway, including the front and back entrance.

Lighting

Brightening the home where seniors may fall is a simple and quick fix. There are so many inexpensive options for lighting, including motion sensor lights you can stick on the wall or plug into an outlet.

These are handy to place in high traffic areas such as near the bathroom, dark hallways, or at the top and bottom of the stairs.

LED lights may also be less harsh on the eyes, as opposed to incandescent bulbs.

Bathroom modifications

A common bathroom modification may be to replace the bathtub with a walk-in shower, which is easier to walk in and out of.

Just like the kitchen, there are basic changes to make to prevent falls and slips, including adding a safety bar to the tub or installing safety strips. If changing from a tub to a walk-in shower isn’t a possibility, consider a transfer bench, which sits on the side of the bathtub. It is made to enable a person to sit safely on it while getting into the tub.

If the home has two stories, having a bathroom on the ground floor might be a good way to reduce the need to walk up and down the stairs. This is a more intensive project, but could be worth it in the long term if your senior plans on aging in place at home.

Toilets

Swapping out the existing toilet seat for one with a bidet may make it easier for those with limited mobility.

The other common modification is the height of the toilet—having a higher toilet seat can make it easier to move from a wheelchair. It also makes standing and sitting easier.

Use smart devices

Besides making home renovations to help your senior with mobility and aging in place comfortably, there are also smartphone apps and wearable devices such as a necklace to alert others in case the senior falls or has an accident. Taking advantage of these tools can provide another layer of monitoring and protection.

No matter what modifications you make, start with the ones you need the most and if necessary, consider having a contractor who has experience in modifications for seniors. There are inexpensive but effective ways to make a home more senior-friendly, so start there and continue to make adjustments as necessary.

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Claire Tak

Claire Tak is a writer and content expert with a background in personal finance. She is an advocate for improving financial transparency and literacy through content and education. Claire's work has been featured and syndicated in Bloomberg, MarketWatch, GoBankingRates, and The Motley Fool. When she's not writing, you can find her on a snowboard, watching a movie, or traveling.