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8 aging-in-place home modifications for seniors

These 8 DIY projects will make your parents home safer as they age

Profile picture of Jonathan Trout
by Jonathan Trout ConsumerAffairs Research Team
senior couple sitting on sofa

Around 90 percent of seniors plan on living in their own home for at least five to 10 years after turning 65, according to the AARP. In turn, the number of remodeling companies doing aging in place upgrades has increased. Eighty percent of remodeling companies are making aging in place home improvements, up from 68 percent in 2013, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

Aging in place is cheaper and more comfortable than going the assisted living route for many people. A typical assisted living home is pricey, costing around $50,000 a year. In contrast, the national average of remodeling a home for aging in place is only $10,000. If you or your parents are planning on doing some fairly major aging in place remodeling projects, check out our guide on aging in place home remodeling. This article will look at some of the most popular DIY home improvements you can do to make your loved one’s home aging-in-place ready.

grab bars in bathroom

1. Install grab bars

Installing grab bars or railing in high-risk areas like bathrooms and bedrooms gives anyone with mobility issues additional support and prevents slip and fall injuries. Install grab bars near the toilet, and in the shower/bathtub since these surfaces get slippery. Depending upon your loved one’s needs, you may want to install bars near their bed so they can get in and out of bed safely. Make sure your grab bar holds up to 250 pounds, and install it by screwing it into wall studs, not just sheetrock. You can get three grab bars (one for the toilet and two for the tub/shower) for around $140.

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    home with entrance ramp

    2. Add outdoor ramps

    Adding ramps to a home’s entry and exits aren't just for wheelchair access. Even if your parents don’t use a wheelchair, a ramp eliminates the need to navigate steps, which can make maintaining balance difficult, even with a banister. A 16-foot long ramp costs around $1,600. You can also get indoor threshold ramps that you put in doorways to form a seamless surface to transition from one room to another.

    heat lamps in bathroom

    3. Install a bathroom heat lamp

    It can take some people longer to get in and out of the tub and take care of everything they need to do in the bathroom. Replacing the overhead light fixture above the toilet and tub with one that has an infrared bulb as well as a regular bulb will help keep their bathroom warm and comfortable in the winter months. You can find a combination heat lamp and light fixture for around $50 to $150.

    person using app for smart home technology

    4. Upgrade your smart home technology

    Technology has become one of the most important developments in helping people stay in their own home as they age. Home technology like medical alert, home security and remote monitoring or communication systems are particularly beneficial.

    Wearable technology like watches, necklaces and even shoe insoles monitor your loved ones’ movement throughout their home, as well as their vitals. You can outfit doorways with sensors that alert a family or emergency care service if someone enters a door but doesn’t exit within a specified period of time, indicating they may need help.

    If you’re looking for a home monitoring system specific to aging in place, a certified aging in place specialist can outfit your loved one's home with different sensors that you can monitor from your smartphone. You can know when your dad gets out of bed thanks to a pressure-sensitive mat placed next to his side of the bed. You can have a sensor put on the medicine cabinet door so you’ll know if your mom takes her medicine. Likewise, you can have heat sensors installed on the stove and front and rear door sensors put in. Aging in place home monitoring systems like HomeExcept cost around $230 for the system and have a monthly monitoring fee around $20-$30.

    Home automation security and monitoring systems do more than provide caregiving functions. You can automate your parents’ home so they can control things like lights, entertainment systems, blinds and more, all from their smartphone or remote control.

    bathroom faucet

    5. Replace your faucets

    Touchless faucets on kitchen and bathroom sinks are great for people with arthritis or grip issues. You can also replace twist faucet handles with levers. Another popular faucet upgrade is installing anti-scald faucets in your parent’s tub or shower. Anti-scald faucets prevent sudden bursts of hot water if the cold water is temporarily redirected due to the toilet being flushed or the washing machine filling up. Another way to prevent scalding is to lower the maximum water temperature on your parents' water heater to 120 degrees or less.

    slippers on carpet

    6. Update your flooring

    Flooring can be the culprit for many trips and falls as you age. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines for flooring is a helpful resource for figuring out the best type of flooring for your parents’ home. Carpet should be securely attached and no more than a half an inch thick. ADA compliant, anti-slip bathroom flooring means the flooring material has gone through friction testing and its coefficient of friction (resistance to slipping) is a 0.6 or higher. When shopping for ceramic bathroom flooring, make sure it’s ADA certified to be slip resistant. If you already have bathroom tile that’s in good shape, you can buy ADA approved anti-slip coating and roll it on with a paint roller. Anti-slip coating typically lasts around 3-5 years and costs around $85 per gallon. One gallon covers about 400 square feet.

    lamp in living room

    7. Improve your lighting

    Improving the lighting in your parents' home can mean putting bright nightlights in hallways and bathrooms, using table or floor lamps for sitting areas for reading and putting adhesive tap-lights under cabinets to provide extra light on counter tops. You can find a 10-pack of LED tap-lights for around $20.

    silver door knob

    8. Replace your doorknobs

    Replacing the round doorknobs in your parents' home with lever-style handles helps people with arthritis or grip issues easily open doors. Likewise, swapping out round kitchen cabinet door knobs with bar- or lever-style handles makes accessing kitchen items a little easier.

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    Profile picture of Jonathan Trout
    by Jonathan Trout ConsumerAffairs Research Team

    As a member of the ConsumerAffairs Research Team, Jonathan Trout believes having access to free, comprehensive information on products and businesses is vital to making smart purchasing decisions. He focuses his efforts on researching and reviewing multiple brands across a variety of industries, with the goal of writing unbiased buyers guides to help inform consumers on impending purchases.