It’s a familiar scene: family members sitting around a kitchen table, agonizing over how to take care of an aging loved one. Moving to a nursing home or a relative’s home may not be an option for all—leaving seniors who need assistance in danger and causing their families distress. Fortunately, this scenario could become far less common in the coming years, thanks to rapid advancements in technology that have led to the rise of the aging-in-place movement.

People are staying active and working longer, making retirement or nursing homes much less appealing and, in many cases, even unnecessary. Most people want to age in their own homes, surrounded by things that give them comfort and joy. This idea, aging in place, is a growing movement that can make the transition into old age much smoother and happier for both your loved ones and, eventually, yourself.

Common Aging-In-Place Design Ideas

tiled shower with seat and handheld showerheadRemake your home. Accessibility, safety, and comfort should be foremost concerns. Hallways and doorways should be wide enough for easy access via wheelchairs or mobility chairs. Bathroom modifications such as walk-in bathtubs, shower seats, and shower grab bars are common as well.

Single-story living is ideal—places to eat, use the bathroom, and sleep should all be located on one level, free of obstructions. When single-story options are limited, the safety concerns of multi-story living can be alleviated by installation of handrails, ramps, or elevators. Steps should be avoided when possible; replace them with ramps.

handicap ramp in front of house with flowers on sidesNearly every part of the home can be modified, and it’s money well spent. Spending several thousand dollars to make your home more accessible pales in comparison to the cost of nursing homes or similar facilities, which can easily top $50,000 annually.

Embrace universal design. Aging-in-place design ideas are based on aspects of universal design and are intended to result in products and environments that are usable by all people, regardless of age or ability level. Universal design is tailor-made for multigenerational households—it simply makes the space work for everyone. Younger people should consider these design ideas when buying or building a new house, as it minimizes the need for future remodeling.

motorized stairlift at bottom of stairsUtilize aging-in-place technology. Emerging technologies are opening up new possibilities, allowing people to age on their own terms with unprecedented independence and security. Wireless monitoring systems now allow for more than just home security; some even make sure grandma is taking her medication. These systems, along with GPS bracelets, can be monitored by family members and alert emergency personnel if necessary. Loved ones can be at ease, knowing they can check in at any time without the need for constant visits or telephone calls.

Hire a specialist. To help the increasing number of homeowners facing these kinds of decisions, a collaborative group—including the National Association of Home Builders and the AARP—established the Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist (CAPS) program. These professionals are qualified and prepared to help you deal with the unique challenges that aging-in-place remodeling presents. Since the degree of modification aging-in-place remodeling requires can be substantial, CAPS contractors will help put you at ease with their knowledge of design choices that will ensure that you or your loved ones are safe, secure, and comfortable.

Getting older is, by definition, a fact of life. The emerging age-in-place movement offers a better way to take care of not only your loved ones but also yourself as you head toward your golden years.

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