Retirement is such an exciting time! You've worked from teenage years to now and it's time for it to all pay off. As you prepare to say goodbye to your coworkers and hang up your work clothes for good, you also need to make sure that you have your home ready for when you do retire.
In this article, we are going to walk through the top 7 ways to prepare your home for retirement.
#1. Are your bedroom and master bathroom conveniently located?
When you're young and buying a home, a bedroom upstairs is no big deal. But as you age, climbing the stairs will become harder and more dangerous. If your bedroom is upstairs, a stairlift or elevator might be worth consideration. Stairlifts provide a chair for homeowners to sit in and safely navigate the stairs without having to climb them. Stairlifts have plenty of safety features such as a seatbelt, alarms and whistles if there is an obstruction on the track, and everything is operated through a joystick at the tip of their fingers.
Elevators are a bit more expensive, but are incredibly handy to have. Unlike a stairlift, an elevator can carry more than one person. Some elevators are large enough to carry a wheelchair or other medical equipment. Elevators can also be located in other locations in the home other than a staircase. For example, elevators can be installed so that the elevator arrives in the bedroom or at the end of a hallway. Stairlifts must be installed on the stairs, but elevators have more flexibility. Through the floor elevators do not need a shaft or pit and can be installed in just a few days!
To see our step-by-step installation video of a through the floor elevator, click here!
#2. Is your kitchen efficiently designed?
The kitchen is one of the busiest areas in the home. It's used multiple times a day and becomes a central point of gathering when company is over. For those planning to age in place after retirement, making sure that this room is designed in an efficient and thoughtful manner is crucial. Cabinets should not be located so high that the homeowners are having to climb onto step stools to reach the essentials. Countertops should not be too low to where one is having to bend down to prepare things. Walkways between the counters should have enough space to accommodate a wheelchair or a walker.
Even the layout of appliances can be crucial for successfully aging in place. Good lighting so that you are able to see exactly what you are doing is key. Lazy susan shelving can eliminate bending over and endlessly digging into corner cabinets that seem to never end. Making your lift as simple as possible is the key to aging in place.
#3. Is your bathroom prepared for your later years?
Think about the most commonly used areas in your bathroom. Your shower, your toilet area, your vanities. Does your shower require your to pick up your feet and step into the shower? Do you have a bath and shower combo? This is incredibly dangerous and can result in serious injuries from falls. Having a zero-entry shower is the safest way to enter and exit. There is no threshold. In fact, if the shower is large enough, wheelchairs can be rolled right into a zero-entry shower.
Secondly, the toilet area can be dangerous as well. Most homes have lower toilets, which requires one to lower themselves down farther and then raise up. As you age, your knees and hips don't work as well as they used to and it can be difficult to safely use a lower toilet. Adding a raised toilet that sits up higher can ease some of that strain on hips and knees. Also, adding grab bars on the sides for additional support and leverage can make a huge difference.
And third, vanities that are low can cause your back to hurt from leaning over to wash your face or brush your teeth. Higher vanities ease the back pain. Also, wheelchair accessible vanities can be a smart addition for those "just in case" situations. Wheelchair accessible vanities look like normal cabinets, but there is an insert in the bottom of the cabinet that can be removed to allow a chair to slide under the vanity.
#4. Do you have area rugs or carpet that has turned loose with rolls in it?
One of the main aspects of aging in place and preparing your home for retirement, is removing any and all tripping hazards. Area rugs, as beautiful as they are, can trip up someone quickly. Because they are loose they can get hung on shoes, walkers, or canes. The best course of action is to remove them entirely. Also, as people age, they tend to shuffle their feet more and their balance becomes less controlled. Loose, rolled up carpets should be replaced and area rugs removed.
#5. How is the lighting in your home?
Removing tripping hazards is important, but being able to SEE where you are going is equally important. Being able to see shoes in the hallway or where your pet may be napping helps to prevent falls. Replacing the lighting in your home to brighten areas that could be problematic is a great way to decrease the chance of an injury.
#6. Is the entrance and exit easily accessible?
Does your home have stairs where you come and go into your home? Even something as simple as 2 or 3 stairs could be problematic if you are planning to age in place. The more stairs your home has, the more trouble it could be. Ramps are a wonderful way to plan for coming and going in the event of a wheelchair or walker/cane being in use. Ramps can be custom built or modular and can be customized to the particular needs of the home. Ramps can be used inside or outside, whereever the need may be.
#7. Is your home safe?
Our last and final tip may be the most important one of all....is your home safe? Do you have a way to quickly contact help in the event of a fall or injury. Here are a few tips and tricks for this: having a connected device in your home (such as an Alexa) can allow you to make a call by voicing a command. Have an alert device that's worn around the neck can call for help at the push of a button. Apple Watches can now detect when you have fallen and can call for help as well. Having some sort of device that allows you to quickly reach out to authorities or loved ones is crucial.
Also, have a "connected home" could make life so much easier. Adjusting the temperature, turning the lights on and off, and even locking the doors at the touch of a button could help greatly as you age. Installing a security system that also provides the ability to monitor smoke and carbon monoxide levels provides peace of mind.
All of these tips are great starting points for creating a safe and peaceful environment for your retirement years. Planning and preparing is the key to successfully aging in place in the home that you love. LiveWell Accessibility Consultants can help you determine what is best for your home and what products can make your life much easier. Please give us a call today to schedule your free in-home consultation.
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