Creating Your Forever Home: Modification Tips for Seniors Looking to Age in Place


For a senior whose life plan does not include moving to an assisted living facility, the goal is to put yourself in a position to be able to age in place (grow old in your home). In order for this to work and for you to remain independent and self-sustainable, however, you may need to modify your home. Here are some tips on creating your forever home.


Tackle super-pricey modifications only as a last resort


If money isn’t a problem for you, then modifying your home to suit your aging in place needs will be easier. But the fact is that most people―especially seniors living on a fixed income—don’t have $50,000 just lying around. That’s why it’s vital that you tackle expensive home mods on a case-by-case basis and only as a last resort. For example, a stair glide to get you up stairs can cost as much as $12,000 for custom units. And if you’re thinking about installing an elevator, not only is it a logistical nightmare, but it can cost between $30,000 and $65,000. Before you drop this much money, see if you can modify one floor of your home to suit all your living needs. 


Another example is in the bathroom, where a walk-in tub may seem like the only way to go. These $10,000 systems are indeed handy and necessary for some seniors, but can you get by—at least for a while―with strategically placed hand bars and grab bars? Or perhaps forgoing baths altogether and installing a seat in your shower is a good option.


Start in the bathroom


Of all the areas of the home that pose the most danger to those with mobility issues, the bathroom is at the top of the list. The AARP suggests having a first-floor bathroom option and even constructing one if you don’t already have this. Even if you have a way (stair glide, elevator) to get to the top-floor bathroom, is it fast or convenient? Not really. You’ll want to focus your attention on two main things: toilet and shower accessibility. A curbless walk-in shower is your best bet. For toilet access, grab bars positioned on each side should do the trick. 


Make your kitchen as convenient as possible


Being able to prepare your own meals is a hallmark of aging-in-place independence. For this to be an option, you have to be able to use your kitchen with relative ease. Some suggestions for an accessible kitchen include:


●     Easy-to-grab cabinet and drawer handles (possibly a “D” shape)

●     A roll-under sink for easy wheelchair access

●     A raised dishwasher that will minimize bending

●     Side-by-side refrigerator with bottom-slide freezer

●     Low-set countertops and/or kitchen island for easy prep work


Another easy way to make a kitchen safer and more accessible is to use a label-maker to label (in big, bold letters) chemicals, pantry ingredients, medications, and more. Ask a friend or family member for help with this!


Know when you may need to downsize


You don’t have to age in place in the same home you raised your kids in—the one you’ve been in for decades. In fact, there are tons of benefits to aging in place in a smaller, downsized home. For one, you will have less upkeep and general maintenance (both inside and out). You can also look for a home that better suits your needs (single story, small yard). Make sure you consult a listings website to review your options. For example, right now you’ll find that the average sale price for a home in Long Beach is $600,000.


In the end, only you know what sorts of home modifications you will need to make to ensure you stay independent as you age. It all depends on your particular mobility and disability situation. If you don’t know where to begin, this checklist of common senior home modifications is a great help. 


Photo by Nathália Bariani on Unsplash

About the Author:

I'm a former home health nurse, focused on our aging population. It's my intention to uplift those that provide support for caregivers who do not live near their loved ones.

Claire Wentz