It’s a blessing to be able to grow old and, let’s face it, we’re all getting older. By 2030, according to the U.S. Census Board, there will be about 70 million Americans aged 65 or older. That’s up from 25 million in 2000 and would constitute nearly 20% of the total U.S. population.Many aging homeowners are already thinking about how they’d like to spend their golden years. A 2018 AARP survey shows 3 out of 4 Americans over the age of 50 want to stay in their current residence as long as possible, and a recent study by Freddie Mac found that more Americans age 67 and older are aging in place longer than previous generations.
“Aging in place” describes individuals who make the conscious choice to live in their homes as they age, rather than relocating. Freddie Mac found that satisfaction in their community, home, and quality of life play a key role in a person’s decision to age in place. The study also said that the number of people aging in place is likely to grow due to the increasing size of the aging population and the fact that barriers to aging in place are being reduced.
As more and more Americans choose to remain in the homes and neighborhoods they’ve helped build, proper planning is needed. Older adults are vulnerable to living conditions that can compromise their functional capacity. Waiting until after a significant event like a stroke or fall — one in three Americans age 65 and older falls each year and one in five falls causes a serious injury — may result in rushed and expensive home improvement projects. But there are adjustments you can make now that may be integral to helping you live independently for longer. It’s not about making the house wheelchair accessible. Even the smallest age friendly design retrofits can make an enormous difference.
- Consider allowances that make it possible for you to sit when you prepare a meal. Standing for long periods of time may become more challenging as you advance in age.
- Consider installing or swapping out an island for one with wheels, so the position can be adjusted to provide clearance for a walker or wheelchair.
- Rethink cabinetry and avoid having and/or using ones above the stove. Hot surfaces can pose an extreme hazard, especially if balance is an issue. And swap out lower cabinets for drawers which are much easier to access without bending or crouching.
- Bathing independently is a hallmark of growing old with dignity. Installing an adjustable-height shower-head with a handheld wand in the shower can make a big difference.
- For a walk-in shower, add a bench or stool that makes it possible to sit down.
- Consider installing grab bars in and out of the shower. Use ones that are specifically designed to aid mobility. Standard towel bars aren’t designed to support our body weight.
Around the House
- Consider making your home “smarter.” Front door locks, lighting or thermostats are all easier to operate from a smartphone.
- Choose door levers over door knobs. They’re easier to operate, particularly if there are issues with mobility or arthritis.
- For flooring, soft and smooth surfaces are kinder to your joints. Think cork, rubber and linoleum. If you’re home shopping, look for level flooring surfaces. They, too, will favor your joints and help you maintain your balance.
Planning out your future years before they arrive is key. To help, we’ll be taking a much closer look at aging in place this month. Stay tuned for more information on projects you can take on at home for yourself or a loved one, insight from aging in place experts, and more.