How to Decide Between Senior-Friendly Home Modifications and Assisted Living

According to AARP, almost 90 percent of those close to retirement age wish to stay in their own homes throughout their golden years.  However, is that a realistic possibility?  What would it take to make a house senior-friendly, or would an assisted living facility more effectively meet some seniors’ goals?  Read on for some practical advice for those weighing their options. 

A little bit of help

For those who want some independence but still need some help with basic daily tasks, such as dressing, bathing, or eating, assisted living can be the best solution.  There is a broad selection of assisted living facilities to choose from in Illinois.  Some are large communities with access to planned social gatherings, exercise programs, cooking classes, and even massage therapy.  Several facilities even have private apartments and special amenities like an on-site beautician, activities, and memory care.  For those who just need a bit of support, it’s an option that keeps them engaged and busy while enjoying comfort and safety. Just make sure your budget can handle the cost; assisted living in California has a median cost of $54,000 a year.

Safe at home

While an assisted living facility is a wonderful solution for many seniors, making modifications to ensure safety and independence can allow many to remain in their own private residences throughout their golden years.  The renovation options are vast, and depending on personal circumstances, nearly any home can be changed to better support an older adult.  Here are some of the more common options that help people safely age in place:

Structural elements

Ideally, a home for aging in place will offer living arrangements on the ground floor.  Not having to deal with stairs while going to and from the essential spaces – the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and laundry area – allows seniors to manage their daily tasks with more safety than if they must navigate stairs. 

Open spaces

An open floor plan with wide hallways and barrier-free navigation is also a boon.  This makes it easier for older adults to maneuver, especially if they should need to use a cane, walker, or other assistive equipment.  In homes with narrow, traditional doorways, openings can be resized, or offset hinges can be installed in place of standard door hinges. 

Proper lighting

Lighting throughout the home is a crucial consideration.  For one thing, abundant natural light appears to help older adults keep their circadian rhythms on track.  On top of that, eyesight deteriorates with age, and transitioning from well-lit rooms into darker spaces becomes more challenging.  Eyes don’t adjust as well, so Enlightenment Mag explains appropriate lighting – both real and artificial – is important.  Thankfully, adding light fixtures, lamps, and nightlights, is an easy and inexpensive home modification. 

Essential details

Bathrooms can be especially challenging to older adults.  Not only are they usually tight quarters, making it hard to move around if you’re using a cane, walker, or wheelchair, but the combination of smooth surfaces and water can make it easy to slip.  Some easy changes that make bathrooms safer for seniors include things like installing grab bars (available for under $20), adding a taller toilet, and installing a curbless shower

The home’s entryway is another place that’s likely to need attention.  Adding a ramp and railings are an easy solution for homes that have steps.  Even if assistive equipment is never needed, just coming and going with groceries is far easier on older adults when they don’t have to travel up and down steps.

Lastly, don’t overlook the home’s exterior.  Easy-care siding and low-maintenance landscaping allow seniors to focus their energy on enjoying their homes, rather than taking care of them. 

Downsizing

Sometimes your current home is too difficult or costly to modify or too large for your needs. If you find yourself in this situation, you may want to consider downsizing into a smaller home that’s already modified for accessibility. Before looking at homes, research the availability of accessible homes and also look into real estate prices to determine which areas you can afford to live in. Homes in San Francisco have sold for $1.35M on average over the last month, but you may be able to find a smaller home for less. If you’re considering a property with aging in place in mind, a checklist can help you determine how well it would meet future needs. 

Your golden years should be as comfortable and independent as possible.  When it’s time to decide between a house and assisted living, weigh your options carefully.  The important thing is to ensure a great quality of life in a safe environment. 

Article written by Harry Cline from newcaregiver.org.

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