If you’re purchasing a “forever home”, you’re planning to stay there well into your golden years. Make sure you choose home features that help you age in place. This doesn’t mean you have to spend the rest of your active adult life feeling like you’re living in a retirement home. It just means there are certain features that will prove more beneficial over others. Here are some to consider adding to your “Need” list while shopping for a home.
When choosing an exterior, make sure you choose something that won’t require a lot of maintenance and upkeep, like brick and vinyl. While other products may have a more unique visual appeal, brick and vinyl don’t require painting, staining, patching, and a lot of cleaning. Every few years, they may require a pressure wash to remove dirt and mildew, but that’s often a low-cost service provided by a professional.
Landscaping can also play a large part in aging in place. You should consider low-maintenance options, like hardy shrubs, native plants, and easy-care bulbs. If you love to garden, raised beds are convenient for when it’s difficult to bend over, and a nice solid cement walk-way is preferable over uneven stones.
A Ground Floor Entrance
Here in Southeastern North Carolina, we have a lot of homes located along the Intracoastal Waterway and Cape Fear River. Elevated main floors are common. Instead of climbing 1 to 4 steps to the front door, there’s a full staircase leading to the main living area on the second story. The first story then includes a garage, bonus room, bedroom, etc. While this is great if there’s ever a flood, it’s not convenient for someone who has a hard time climbing stairs, a common issue for seniors.
1st-Floor Master Suite
Many home buyers in their golden years prefer a single-story home, because it eliminates the need for interior stairs. However, if you still have family at home and prefer the look, space, and privacy a two-story home provides, you should consider purchasing one with a first-floor master suite. That way, when you’re older, you won’t have to climb stairs to get to your bedroom.
Additional Space to Move Around
Walkers and wheelchairs are common aids for navigating homes, and they require a bit more room to use easily. At each entrance to the home, there should be a 5ft landing for safe maneuvering. Hallways should be at least 36” wide and the clear width of all doors should be 32”. A 5ft by 5ft turn space should exist within each main living area (kitchen, dining room, living room, etc.), as well as the main floor bedroom and bathrooms. There should also be a 30”-40” clear space in front of all appliances. Basically, the more space the better, which is why open floor plans are so convenient.
Falls are one of the leading causes of fatal injuries among people 65 and older. Decreasing eyesight, declining strength, and even medications can raise the risks of falls in older adults, which is why it’s so important to have handrails and grab bars at strategic places around the home. Essentially, that includes at the front door, near every staircase, in the shower, and next to the toilet. You may not need the grab bars and handrails right now, but you should leave room for future installment and have them installed right now where it can be difficult in the future (certain showers).
While flooring can be changed later, if you’re purchasing a home with wood or tile, which often remains the same for years, try to choose a finish that is non-glare and slip-resistant. On that same note, carpet should be low-density with a firm padding; however, we realize that carpet can be easily replaced at a later time. Also, it’s best if all floors and thresholds are flush to prevent tripping and provide easy navigation with a walker or wheelchair.
Lever Door Handles
Arthritis can be a big issue in older people. The disease makes it difficult to grip things, including turning handles on doors. Lever handles can alleviate that issue. While handles can be changed out later, it may just be easier to have them installed now.
Walk-in Shower in Master
When picking a master bedroom, the ideal layout includes a walk-in shower. Even better if that shower has a seat and wide, flush entry big enough for a walker or wheelchair. If you can’t afford something that large, make sure the shower has a grab bar installed inside and out for a safe exit and entry.
Adjustable Height Toilet
It’s recommended that people with mobility issues have a toilet that’s 2.5” taller than a standard toilet; however, that may not fit your current needs. With that said, there are adjustable toilets (powered and manual) that you can buy. If you want to be super fancy, there are also adjustable wash basins. Adjustable toilets eliminate the need for additional and sometimes awkward toilet add-ons.
Pull-Out Drawers in Kitchen
It becomes increasingly difficult to reach things high up and down low as you grow older. This is most apparent when retrieving dishware and pans from cabinets in the kitchen. Having pull-out drawers within your kitchen cabinets can be a lifesaver and worth the cost of the upgrade. If your home of interest doesn’t have them installed already, you may be able to add some. There are a number of kits you can buy if the cabinets are large enough, or you can hire a cabinet specialist to work some magic.
When searching for a home for aging in place, it’s most important to choose one with features that would be hard to install in the future. These are most often related to the physical structure of the home. While some materials and finishes can be updated later, you should take into consideration what your future finances may look like. Putting the money into the home now may make more sense than risking being unable to finish the tasks at a later date due to a lack of funds (things happen!).
For more ideas, check out the National Association of Home Builders Aging-in-Place Remodeling Checklist.
If you’re thinking about buying in the greater Wilmington area, we’d love to discuss your options. Give us a call at (910) 202-2546 or send us a message through our online form.
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