7 Tips to Make Your Home More Senior-Friendly for Aging Parents & Relatives

According to a recent study cited by CityLab, more than 80 million Americans will be over age 65 by 2035.

Many of those folks will be active and healthy, able to live without trouble in the homes they’ve occupied for decades.

Others may need to modify their homes to accommodate changing physical and health needs. If you or your parent expect to age in place during the coming years, take these seven steps for safe, senior-friendly living at every stage of life.

1. Build Accessible Approaches and Entranceways

The cornerstone of any accessible home is an accessible approach. Your loved one should be able to use any entrance without fear or reservation. Some features you might consider adding include:

  • Ramps in place of or alongside exterior stairways
  • Sturdy railings on exterior ramps and stairways
  • No-swing door hinges that allow wider-than-average clearance
  • Lever-style knobs that require no twisting of the wrist or forearm

2. Invest in a Medical Alert System

Accidents can always happen, even in the most senior-friendly homes. Ensure that your loved one is able to call for help immediately after an accident by investing in an in-home medical alert system that automatically notifies the authorities when an incident occurs. Review lists of the best medical alert systems on the market to find options that fit your needs and budget.

3. Get a Side-by-Side Washer-Dryer Set

Replace that stacked washer-dryer set with a more accessible side-by-side configuration that doesn’t require stretching (or, worse, climbing a stepladder). Read up on the best side-by-side washers and dryers for more details.

4. Install an Accessible Shower

The combination of smooth tile, excessive moisture, standing water, and slippery soaps make bathrooms particularly accident-prone. Installing a walk-in shower with grip tile and accessible shelves is a great first step. If you’re not sure that’s enough, look into sitting shower configurations that allow for more deliberate washing.

5. Add More Space in the Kitchen

Remodeling a kitchen is expensive, so this project isn’t one to tackle unless you’re sure you have the budget (or the kitchen in question is so outdated that it’s time for a thorough revamp anyway). Above all else, you’ll want to focus on increasing headway and spacing between counters, appliances, and islands, to allow for easy access with mobility devices (including wheelchairs).

6. Add a Stairlift

If your home has two levels and lacks a suitable main-floor bedroom, consider adding a chair stairlift to facilitate safe, expedient passage upstairs. There are lots of chairlift options, so you’ll want to carefully research and compare what’s out there.

7. Improve Lighting in Commonly Used Rooms

Use a combination of passive and active lighting to brighten interior spaces at any time of day — and reduce the slip-and-fall risk posed by dim spaces.

Accessible Living Is a Work in Progress

Aging is inevitable. With it comes wisdom — and, all too often, infirmity.

By tackling some or all of the projects on this list, you’ll set your older relatives (and perhaps yourself, one day) up for a more accessible, fulfilling, independent life. But have no illusions that the steps you take to render the home more accessible today will be all that’s needed as conditions change.