Ours is an aging population. By 2030, it’s projected that 1 in 8 people on the planet will be over 65. People are living longer and, in many cases, more healthily, yet the ratio of older people will impact how we house and care for our elderly family, loved ones and neighbors.
Many aging homeowners strive to stay put as long as they can, receiving home care in lieu of moving to retirement communities or assisted living facilities. If remaining in the comfort of your family home is your goal or if you decide to invite an aging parent or family member, there are some small modifications you can make to ensure it's easy to get around. Some updates, like a long-lasting exterior, may even increase the value of your property should you decide to sell it.
Climbing stairs is one of the riskiest activities older adults can engage in. According to AARP, 1 in 3 people over 65 falls each year, largely because of health changes like limited sight, muscle strength or coordination, or conditions that could affect balance.
To mitigate the risks and transform your living space into a safer space in which to age, include a first-floor main bedroom and bath for easy access and safety. If a master on main isn’t an option, you can make other accessibility changes, such as adding a stairlift, handrails or non-carpeted stairs fitted with non-slip tape or paint. For access to the outdoors, add extra rails or ramps to allow free movement.
There are many steps you can take to prepare your bathroom for decreased mobility. The first starts with the shower: Switch out the tub for a zero-step shower, with an entryway wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair or walker. You can also consider changing out bathroom door knobs that can be difficult for aging and arthritic hands to turn for door handles, which can be more easily opened by those with limited mobility. Changing out faucets to ones that adhere to universal design can also make growing older at home easier.
Grab bars near toilets and showers are a simple and effective safety measure, and non-slip flooring is a necessity in a room with floors that are often moist. Simply opting for smaller-size tiles can improve your grip on the bathroom floor: The extra grout can give feet something to hold onto.
Some of the preparations for aging-in-place have less to do with safety and more to do with affordability and upkeep as you live on a decreased budget. If you’re going to live in your home for the next 20-30 years, it makes sense to spend a little extra on items you really want and that will last through the years. Avoid trendy looks that will become dated later on, when you might not have the desire to start redecorating.
Middle-aged, you might enjoy getting out on a Saturday afternoon to cut grass, trim hedges, and weed the garden, but who wants to be tied to those tasks in their later years?
Instead of shrubbery that needs constant tending, consider hedging the yard with a small vinyl, composite or metal fence, which requires no paint or stain to look good well into the future (some even come with a lifetime guarantee).
PVC decking can take the place of wood, and will never need refinishing. Digging up the family pool is a good idea — unless you have a legion of family members or at least a couple of adult children who want to tend to it each day in exchange for its use.
Finally, take steps to make the exterior of your home as long-lasting and maintenance-free as possible. Next time your shingles need replacing, consider a lifetime-guaranteed steel roof instead of the standard 15-year shingles. The cost is higher upfront but your roof will be attractive and free of leaks forever.
Energy-efficient windows and doors are another investment that pays off over the long term, through lower energy bills. New windows are usually easier to clean, too, saving you the cost of hiring pros to do the job in later years.
When it comes to the siding itself, forego high-maintenance options like cedar siding that needs regular cleaning, inspection and refinishing every 5 years or so, or fade-prone aluminum siding that will need painting to stay looking fresh. Opt instead for a long-lasting solution like fiber cement.
Fiber cement can be manufactured for a custom look for your home — even that sought-after wood look without the risk of infestation or rot — and will last up to 50 years, making it an economical choice for the life of your home.
Not all of the suggestions on how to build a forever home need to be implemented right away. The important part is to keep your future plans in mind when making necessary upgrades to your house; it will go a long way to preparing your home for your later years.
By accomplishing some of these changes early on, you can rest assured you’re ready whether it’s mom coming to stay or you choosing to age-in-place, with or without the help of a caregiver, in the comfort and familiarity of your own home.
To learn more about why fiber cement is the right choice for your forever home, check out this blog. Or you can click here to learn more about why fiber cement is the best exterior material on the market.