Plan Now for Options Later: Aging in Place

I’ve had a number of recent conversations with various friends about the cost required to move their parents into assisted living. It’s a phenomenal amount of money and there’s got to be a better way, one where you can remain in your home that was designed for the future. It’s a concept I’m currently thinking about for myself, as I’m not getting any younger. I want to be able to remain at home and have assistance come to me as I need it. While designing a home, keep the future in mind, especially because aging in place has become more of a reality. A lot of people don’t realize the things you can do to future-proof a house and make it possible for assisted living at home. We are all just an accident or surgery away from wishing you had planned for the future. Here’s the short list of things to consider even if you are currently perfectly healthy and physically able:

#1 Accessibility
Make sure it’s easy to access all parts of the home. Don’t overlook the front entry and especially the garage because you need to be able to easily get in and out of your house if you had physical challenges. There needs to be room to maneuver in and out of a car.

For someone thinking of a two-story home, I would absolutely recommend preparations for an elevator. What we’ve done with several homes is carve out a vertical space where an elevator can be added. For now, space can serve as a closet on the 2nd floor. On the first floor, this space could serve as a wine cellar or an alcove off the great room. We did this in a previous home, the space on the first floor became a nook for our dog’s crate where it became part of the household but also conveniently tucked out of view.

#2 Lighting
Good lighting is important as people age. For seniors, lighting needs to be brighter than the standard levels, and well-placed. With the capability of dimming, it’s possible to make it comfortable for your needs now and the level can be increased when you need it; for example, for food preparation in the kitchen.

#3 Reachable cabinetry
Consider the height of kitchen cabinets and bathroom fixtures. Provide wood blocking in the walls for grab bars, you can even add aesthetically pleasing ones in the shower now. You never know when in your life something might happen that requires you to need assistance. Grab bars make things so much easier, in the case of a hip replacement or even an accident. This isn’t just about aging, but life in general!

#4 Walking surfaces
Easy walking surfaces and transitions between rooms are crucial. Sunken living rooms used to be popular but should be avoided. Without proper lighting, these floor transitions become tripping hazards for people of any age. Even plush carpeting can be a problem.

#5 Embrace technology
Motorized shades, thermostats controlled from a mobile device, even the ability to check who’s at the door remotely are all easily possible today. These may be convenience items, but in the case of disabilities or mobility issues, these can become lifesavers. The costs are coming down and there’s no reason not to include them.

Consider, if you did need assisted care, how would that play out? It might seem like a gloomy thought, but thinking about aging in place now can give you many more options in the future than if you simply let the chips fall where they may.

This came to light a few years ago when I was assisting my father. I had to figure out how do you fit a hospital bed in here? Where does a caregiver stay? Whether the caregiver is a relative who’s going to need a little bit of space or a hired person who might need some more privacy, it’s good to have a plan.

Incorporating features you might need in the future might actually make your life easier right now.

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