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Modify and Remodel to Create a Senior - Friendly Home

The majority of seniors wish to remain in their home during their retirement years. Yet, often physical limitations make it unsafe to do so. Many seniors move to an assisted living care facility for the safety features that can be added to one's home by modification and remodeling

Remodeling your home can be expensive, but making even minor, low-cost modifications can make a huge difference in the ability to continue living in the home.

Benefits of Modifying your Home

Although some seniors will need in-home care, often the modifications can allow the senior to continue with his or her own self-care. A grab bar and seat in the shower, for example, can mean delaying the need for assistance with bathing.

The majority of these modifications focus not only on making day to day living easier for seniors, but they increase the safety of doing so as well.


Before permanent modifications and remodeling are considered, several safety precautions can be done fairly quickly, including:

  • The installation of bright lighting for both day and night. Most seniors need three times more light to see as opposed to younger people, but are more sensitive to glare. In general, change all lights to at least 60-watt bulbs. There should be sufficient lighting above all stairs. Placing a flashlight in most rooms is also advised in case of power failure.

  • The removal of all area rugs that may cause an individual to trip or slip.

  • Clearly marking hot and cold water handles and setting water temperature to a safe level.

  • Replacing shower doors with curtains to prove easier access to the bathtub.

  • The installation of mirrors that can be moved to accommodate a seated individual rather than a standing one.

  • For individuals who have trouble standing for any length of time, purchase a bathtub or shower seat so that they can shower while seated or so that they don't have to lower themselves all the way into the bathtub.Bathtub and shower seats are available in a variety of options that include those with or without backs, the ability to adjust for height, heavy-duty models for individuals who cannot be supported by standard models, chairs with rubber slip resistant feet, and folding and portable chairs.

  • Install a hand held shower attachment so that it is easier for the individual to shower and bathe while seated.

  • Because many older individuals may have trouble bending or lowering them selves into a sitting position, consider the purchase of a raised toilet seat that clamps on to the existing seat.

  • If hearing problems are an issue, doorbells that light up instead of producing a ringing sound is advised.

  • Installing a ramp and increasing the width of entrance doors in your home should be a priority. You can also look at the possibility of changing the type interior door from a swinging door to an accordion-type door or a pocket door (i.e., doors that retract into a gap). Modifying your house to have 'easy reach' cabinets and counters are also advised. Bathrooms, bedrooms and other living spaces should also be remodeled to allow a wheelchair to go in, turn, and go out

Homeowners of any age can benefit by creating a safe and comfortable home for years to come, but for seniors this is especially important.

Modifying and Remodeling Tips for the Senior-Friendly Kitchen

According to various surveys, the most important room to most seniors is the kitchen. Here are some suggestions for kitchen modifications that will make the kitchen more comfortable to use and safer:

  • Under-cabinet task lighting

  • Pull-down shelving.

  • Slide-out drawers in cabinets

  • Elevated dishwashers.

  • Built in oven within easy reach

  • D-shaped cabinet and drawer handles for easier grasping.

  • Anti-scald devices.

  • Softer, natural flooring to reduce back and foot strain for periods of standing.

And because most injuries to seniors in their own homes occur in the bathroom...

Modifying and Remodeling Tips for the Senior-Friendly Bathroom

  • Install rubber grip mats in the bathtub and/or have it painted with a non-slip treatment. Make certain that mats are cleaned regularly to prevent soap scum buildup.

  • Install permanent grab bars on the side of the bathtub and on shower walls and bathroom walls, and wherever necessary to facilitate extra support for the individual as he or she enters and exits the bathtub and/or shower. Never use toilet paper or paper towel holders, towel racks, or wall mounted sinks for weight-bearing assistance because they can easily become dislodged and cause serious injury. Use only approved and tested equipment that has been properly installed. Grab bars can also be mounted next to the toilet and the sink if necessary.

  • Safety poles (floor-to-ceiling rods bolted to structural members) are an option for various placements within the bathroom. These offer support for individuals in larger rooms where wall-mounted grab bars may not be easily accessible or practical.

  • If remodeling the bathroom, have shower and/or bathtub seating built in to replace the seating mentioned above. Change bathroom tiles to smaller ones for 'better grip', avoiding slips and falls.

  • Install an anti-scald device to ensure you don't burn yourself with very hot water.

  • Some experts recommend that the bathtub be removed and replaced with a shower with seating so that the resident does not have to climb into a bathtub but rather walk into a shower stall.

    However, for those who desire to retain the bathtub, the use of a tub bench allows the user to sit on the bench while still outside the bathtub and slide sideways into the tub, eliminating the need to step over the tub wall.

  • Toilet safety frames are available for those who would benefit from more support than a grab bar can provide. These frames provide support on both sides of the toilet rather than a grab bar, which is mounted on the wall side of the toilet.

  • Add wheel-chair ramps where needed to enter and exit the home easily.

  • Outside, have slippery steps and walkways covered, treated or replaced with anti-slip steps and walkways.

  • If the senior's bedroom or other daily used room is located on an upper floor of the home, consider relocating this downstairs, and even adding a room if needed. If this is not possible due to space limitations a stairwell chair / lift can be installed on the side of the stairwell to provide access to the upper floor of the residence.

As you can see, many small changes can enhance the livability and convenience of a senior's home, which can make all the difference between remaining in the home and having to move to an assisted living facility. Most of these modifications are low to moderate cost.

Remodeling homes for seniors can be expensive, but often when you compare the cost to moving to senior housing, you can save money, not to mention help the senior who longs to stay in his or her own home to do safely with a little help, in the way of modifications and remodeling.