Thinking of and paying for features that make a house more accessible as you get older is key to successfully aging in place.
If you’re looking to buy a new home and hope to stay there for the rest of your life, look ahead to what you might want in it as you age. Thinking of and paying for features that make a house more accessible now can be a lot easier than having to make modifications later.
Here are five home features to look for in a “forever home” that can make age-related disabilities easier to deal with:
- Few steps. A no-step entry that can accommodate a wheelchair is preferable – and is the first thing to look for in a home that you may want to spend retirement in. The entryway should be wide and deep enough for a wheelchair to easily turn around, ideally 36 inches wide or more. It’s also a good idea to look for a home without stairs. A one-story home can help with knee or other health issues that make walking difficult. If your home has a second floor, you may one day need to install an elevator or chairlift.
- Accessible bedroom and bathroom. Most homes have one-floor living spaces, meaning that even if your home has a second story, you can convert a first-floor living or dining room into a bedroom. Look for a home that has a first-floor bedroom with an attached bathroom, preferably both of which are wheelchair accessible.
- Slip-proof bathroom. Falls in the bathroom are a major cause of injuries for the elderly. Make sure the bathroom, bath and shower have grab bars to help avoid accidents. These don’t have to be the huge grab bars you see in nursing homes, but rather, towel racks or other functional bars that are properly anchored.
- Kitchen you can still cook in. If you still plan on cooking later in life, look for a kitchen that’s easy to get around in, with areas that are easily reachable. Counters, storage areas, drawers and dishwashers should be at heights that you can get to comfortably without bending over.
- High tech. A home equipped with the latest technology can allow homeowners to do things from their couches that used to require getting up. With a smartphone or tablet, you can adjust the thermostat, close the blinds, turn off the lights and lock the doors if they’re all set up with the right technology.