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7 Necessary Home Updates for Seniors

Posted by Johnine Larsen on September 9, 2019
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You’ve changed since you bought your home, and it’s time your home changed, too. You have different needs now—a normal part of aging, but one you can’t ignore. At a certain point, older homeowners face three options: (1) move into assisted living, (2) buy a new home that better accommodates aging, or (3) update their existing home.

A typical assisted living home costs around $50,000 a year. Buying a new home is a huge undertaking, especially here in Seattle. The third option, remodeling a home for aging in place, costs only about $10,000 on average.


1. Updated flooring

Loose carpet and slippery tile cause many older homeowners to trip or slip. One of the most important updates you can make is flooring. Carpet should be securely attached and no more than half an inch thick. For bathroom floors, make sure you have ADA-compliant, anti-slip flooring (this means it’s gone through friction testing and its “coefficient of friction” is 0.6 or higher). If you don’t want to completely replace your bathroom floor, you can apply ADA-approved anti-slip coating to existing tile with a paint roller. Anti-slip coating typically lasts 3–5 years and costs $85 per gallon (good for about 400 square feet).


2. Lever-style door handles

Arthritis makes round doorknobs difficult to open. Replacing them with lever-style handles makes things easier—and it also lets you open doors even if your hands or wet or you’re carrying something. In addition to updating doorknobs, you can also change the knobs on all your cabinets to bar- or lever-style handles.


3. New faucets

Arthritis and grip issues also make twist faucets difficult to operate. Update your sinks with lever-operated or touchless faucets. Lowering the maximum water temperature on the water heater to 120 degrees and/or installing anti-scald faucets are great updates, as well—this will prevent a sudden burst of hot water if the cold water is temporarily redirected (as often happens when the toilet is flushed or the washing machine fills up).


4. Walk-in shower

Walk-in showers reduce your chance of falling, and they can also allow for wheelchair access. Add a seat to your walk-in shower to avoid the need to stand for a long stretch of time. With these modifications, a shower can become just as luxurious as a jacuzzi, but so much safer.


5. Grab bars

Any place where you could benefit from additional support should have a grab bar: the bathroom, the bedroom, the closet. A grab bar makes it easier to get in and out of bed, or use the toilet, or exit a slippery shower. Each grab bar should be able to hold at least 250 pounds, and it needs to be screwed into the wall studs—not just sheetrock. Three grab bars cost about $140.


6. Bathroom heat lamp

This one’s for comfort, not safety. No one likes cold bathroom tile or that shock of cold air between the shower and getting dressed—and those feel even more unpleasant as you age. Consider replacing your bathroom’s overhead light fixture with one that also has an infrared bulb. This will keep the bathroom warm and comfortable all year round. A combination heat lamp and light fixture costs $50–$150.


7. Ground-floor bedroom

You’ll often find the master bedroom on the second floor, which is a terrible location as your mobility declines with age. Bu you can avoid this issue by renovating a ground-floor bedroom or office so it works as a master bedroom. Depending on your house, this can be a major update—easily the biggest one on this list—but it’s the most significant factor in how long you can stay in your home.


If these updates seem like too much work, or if your home has features that can’t be changed to accommodate age (like this five-story work/life space), talk to us. We’re transition specialists. In addition to helping clients buy and sell homes, we help with the difficult, “non-essential” complications of transitioning into a new living situation, and we ensure our clients make the best decisions for their future.

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