“This thing all thing devours; Birds, beasts, trees, flowers; Gnaws iron, bites steel; Grinds hard stones to meal; Slays king, Ruins town, And beats mountain down.” — Gollum, The Hobbit
No matter how hard we fight or deny it, time catches up with us all. We’ve all seen it. Aging happens, and with it comes a slew of challenges and decisions. If you have reached this stage of life yourself, or have a loved one who’s there, you know what I am talking about.
One of the most important questions we ask as we age is where we will live. A majority of individuals 65 and older want to live in their home as long as possible, and it’s not hard to figure out why. Our routines, communities, and lives are built around where we live. Our homes, however, may not be ready to age with us and can become more of a hazard than a haven due to their layout, elevation changes, mobility impediments, finishes, and lack of adequate lighting. So what do you do? Make your home ready to “age in place.”
What is aging in place and what makes a home aging-ready? Aging in place refers to the ability to safely, healthfully, and independently grow old in your own home. It means maintaining the life you have established in the place you have established it in.
An aging-ready home considers the potential of physical limitations and plans for it. Preparation can include simple modifications, such as swapping door and cabinet knobs for handles or adding grab bars in the bathroom, or it can involve more time- and cost-intensive ones, like lowering countertops and cabinets, widening hallways, or adding a first floor bedroom. The goals are to minimize the risk of falls and other injuries, and to keep daily tasks simple.
Grab a pair of glasses and smear a thin layer Vaseline on the lenses. Walk around. What do you trip over while walking? Put Band-Aids around the middle of each finger. Can you open your cabinets and doors comfortably and easily? Finally, sit in a chair. If your chair had wheels, would you be able to turn around where you’re at? Would you be able to reach the kitchen sink or light switches? These tasks represent just some of the things that should be considered when preparing a home to age with you.
If you’re thinking about remodeling or building, think with the future in mind. Look for a designer who is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) and will be able to plan with you. If you’re a long way from retirement, consider your parents. Who will take care of them when they need it? Where will they live? Whether it’s for your own future or a loved one’s, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.