Updating Your Home at 55+
Updated: Jan 11
Your home surroundings are important. Your environment has an impact on your health, mood, energy, and overall well-being. If you are looking forward to staying in your home when you retire, it’s also time to think about preventing common injuries that can impact your quality of life and your ability to live independently. The earlier you consider the following key recommended changes to your home, the less costly they will be. Even if some of the suggested modifications do not apply immediately to you as a home owner, they are important to keep in mind even for aging parents or relatives that visit.
As we grow older, our vision changes, especially depth and color perception. We need more and better lighting to do everyday tasks. This becomes important in certain key areas. In the kitchen, improved under-cabinet lighting makes food preparation easier. Additional lighting can also be placed inside drawers when opened. In addition, to avoid shadows while working, you will need to pay special attention to overhead lighting.
In work areas, such as an office or hobby room, an additional lamp with directed light will help you pay more attention to detail. In dining areas, LED light fixtures may be nice in order to see the food better, but always place the fixture(s) on a dimmer. LED fixtures require an LED-enabled dimmer.
What Are the Best Lights to Buy?
I generally recommend LED lighting for all new light fixtures. LED lights are less expensive to run than traditional incandescent bulbs. Some fixtures come with preloaded LED lamps, while others need an added bulb. Look for fixtures of bulbs with LED Kelvin temperature 3000 or less. 3000K is equivalent to daylight. 2700K is equivalent to the incandescent light we are used to. LED light output is measured in lumens. For more advice, consult the professionals at a good lighting or electrical components retail store.
I recommend door levers rather than doorknobs because they are easier to use with arthritic hands. It’s important that people can easily exit a room in an emergency.
Contrary to popular stereotypes, lots of older people never fall. In fact, many falls are preventable. Here are four easy ways to prevent falls and keep everyone safe.
Remove scattered rugs that someone can trip on, or make sure the tips are secured and a mat is placed under each rug to avoid slippage. A low pile rug may be better if you are concerned about walking difficulties.
Install wider doorways so that two people can comfortably enter the room side by side. As an added bonus, you’ll be making your home more accessible to people using wheelchairs.
Place night lights in each room, and especially in the hallway to the bathroom. If there are stairs, have an electrician place a light in the vertical part of each step. You can put the light on a timer that determines daylight. If there is sufficient light, the light will turn off.
If there are uneven surfaces, place a contrast color at the end of the surface to make it easier to identify the difference.
For more information see:
Bathrooms are a source of concern. Most people have heard about how grab bars prevent falls, especially in slippery environments. Even if you don’t install grab bars during your next renovation, have the contractor place the blocking in the wall to ensure the bars will be strong if you need them later. A waist-high grab bar near each entryway or exit is a good idea. Plus, new grab bar designs mean that your home bathroom doesn’t have to feel institutional.
Next, make sure that the floor of the bathroom is not slippery. Smaller tile with grout between the tiles offers a solution. Then, make sure you install a toilet that is higher (17” high). You’ll make it easier to get up from a sitting position. A small grab bar near the toilet is a good solution as well. Finally, showers should be barrier free with a linear water drain so that the bathroom floor will not flood.
Here are six changes that make a big difference. Most of these are small and easy to implement.
Place faucets where it is easy to reach the handles.
Install a dishwasher that is slightly higher to avoid bending down low.
Install a microwave drawer for easier access.
Add sufficient lighting. See above.
Install an accessible, user-friendly timer for the stove. This will remind a busy or sometimes forgetful person to check on their meal.
Make sure the counter is at a convenient height for basic cooking and that food items are easily accessible. Stove controls should be marked and easy to see and use.
The items I list here are a good starting point for basic design considerations. Much more information is available online at AARP sites and others. For more information:
Do you need expert advice to help you make some important design decisions? Call Interiors by Dafna Adler at (516) 234-5425 for a consultation.