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Wheelchair ramp leading to front door

Are you hoping that the home you live in now will be your forever home? If so, you’re not alone. 

Two-thirds of U.S. adults say they would prefer to age in place instead of moving to a retirement home, according to one survey. However, only one-third believe they will be able to do so. About a quarter of respondents said they just don’t think their home is suitable for an elderly person to live in. 

This is where an aging-in-place remodel can help. By following the principles of universal design, you can create a safe, comfortable and stylish home for all ages and abilities.

Here are some ideas to consider when upgrading your home to accommodate your needs as you age. 

Exterior & Entry

Your home needs at least one barrier-free entry with no steps. Keep driveways, walkways, porches and stairs well-lit and in good repair. Exterior stairs should have sturdy railings and nonslip treads. Decks, patios and balconies should be no more than ½ inch below the interior floor level.

Carports and garages should be wide enough to accommodate lifts or vans, with a door clearance of 9 feet and a 5-foot aisle between vehicles. 

Entry doors should be at least 36 inches wide. Include an accessible doorbell and peepholes, and make sure the door lock is well-lit. Ramps should have a 1-inch rise for every 12 inches in length, with a 5-foot landing in front of the door. 

Hallways & Stairs

Going up and down the stairs may become more challenging as you age. 

Staircases should have adequate lighting and sturdy handrails on both sides. Choose an attractive color contrast for the top and bottom stairs, and between treads and risers. Add a chair lift if needed.

Hallways and doorways should be at least 36 inches wide, with lever handles instead of traditional round knobs. Thresholds should be flush with the floor. 

Kitchens & Laundry Rooms

Choose multi-level countertops, with open space underneath for a stool or wheelchair. Put everything within easy reach with lower-level cabinets, lazy Susans and pull-out shelving. Task lighting and accent stripes at the edge of the countertop are helpful for those with visual impairments.

Shallow sinks and faucets with blade handles or motion sensors offer additional convenience. User-friendly appliances include refrigerator and dishwasher drawers, oven doors that open to the side and cooktops that can be reached while seated or standing. 

For the laundry room, choose a front-loading washer and dryer. Position them about 12 to 15 inches off the floor to avoid having to bend over when loading and unloading. 

Bed & Bathrooms

Make sure your home has at least one wheelchair-friendly bedroom suite on the main level. Essential bathroom safety features include non-slip flooring, grab bars and adequate lighting. 

Create a more relaxing environment with a curbless shower entry, shower seating and handheld shower head. Your shower should be at least 36 inches wide for maximum accessibility. Look for a step-through tub that’s easier to get in and out of. 

Accessible vanities feature knee space underneath and lever-style faucet handles. All faucets should include anti-scald protection. Look for comfort-height toilets with automatic flushing and toilet paper holders that can be changed with one hand. 

Your bedroom should be large enough for a wheelchair to comfortably maneuver around the furniture. Closets should include ample lighting, with adjustable rods and shelving to put items within easy reach. 

Throughout the House

Finally, here are some excellent updates that can make every room both safer and more convenient.

  • Reduce the risk of falls with non-slip flooring, and make sure rugs are securely attached to the floor. 
  • Every room should include at least a 5-foot radius of turning space for wheelchair users. 
  • Position light switches and outlets so that they can be reached either seated or standing. Other helpful features include rocker or motion-activated lights, and lighted cover plates and outlets. 
  • Windows should be easy to open and close with minimal effort. Motorized window shades are another good option. 

If you are thinking about how to make your home more accessible as you age, reach out to us at Mid-City Lumber. Our experienced professionals are happy to answer your questions and help you find the right materials for a project that meets your needs.