The first visions that goes through your head when I mention a terms such as home renovation or home remodel is probably of a room addition or kitchen renovation.  However, the one major home renovation on the rise here in Michigan has nothing to do with either of them yet all to do with the aging demographic.   Modernizing a home for age in place living is easier than ever with contractors specializing in handicap construction popping up everywhere.

An age in place remodeling project begins when a family brings in an older relative to live with them and their mobility needs have to be met.  Also, some aging individuals choose to remain in their own home and need accommodations set in place to ensure maximum safety as well as functionality.  The questions still remain the same in either circumstance; how do you achieve maximum functionality in the home, keeping your loved one safe in the most cost effective manner.

Beginning any age in place remodeling one thing to keep in mind is the future of the home.  At some point the house will need to be sold.  With this in mind all upgrades and changes should be consistent with the style of the home, add safety and allow for an individual to function independently.  Some general suggestions to accommodate physical changes that occur to the body as we age are as follows:

  • When initially remodeling your home make it so everything you need is accessible on one floor or accommodate a chair lift in the design.  Ranch level homes are most adequate for maneuverability of individuals throughout.  With a few simple modifications to allow for easier access, multi-level homes can function quite nicely as well for aging individuals or for those with handicaps that limit them in terms of mobility.
  • Doorways can be easily widened when upgrading old doors throughout the home.  Wider doorways ease access for wheelchair users, walkers and canes.  This type of modification will blend into the home and not pop out as an age in place renovation.  This type of renovation is best for resale.
  • Plan for entry into the home using a porch that includes a wheelchair access ramp.  As we age this is helpful for individuals whose knees don’t function like they used to or those using a device to help with their mobility.  Most wheelchair ramps can be built as a permanent structure onto the home or as a temporary structure depending on the desired need.
  • Think ahead as much as possible.  If an individual is in their late forties, early fifties and in the midst of having a bathroom remodel or kitchen renovation it is time to begin thinking about adding in place features to help for aging. Items such as bathroom grab bars, barrier free showers or storage in a kitchen within an optimal reach zone or drawers instead of cupboards.  These are all easy adjustments to make when planning for major room renovation.
  • Another easy transformation is adding levers or pulls instead of knobs.  This is an easy addition to any door or cupboard.  This is also a way to add style to a home.  The variety of colors, textures and styles of levers and pulls available add to the style of any home.
  • Flooring renovations are another area that help with age in place movement and increase a home’s attractiveness.  Carpet is often difficult for walkers and wheelchairs to maneuver. The installation of hardwood flooring or flooring renovations that include smooth surfaces will greatly improve the quality of movement and decrease the risk of falls.

A few easy age in place renovations can add up to a safe place for individuals to age in place.  If you are making accommodations in your home for a loved one it is possible to add safety without taking away the style of your home.  Renovations are no longer bulky and out in the open.  Handicap construction in 2012 leaves individuals unable to recognize anything other than stylish updates to a home.