How To Remodel Home for an Elderly Person

Turning a regular home to meet a senior citizen’s needs is a growing trend. There are more people who are 62+ than ever before, and 80% of senior living hazards can be removed.

It’s all about design – use good lighting, remove slippery surfaces, fewer stairs, etc.

To help you a senior home remodel we made a checklist of 7 improvements to consider.


1. Ramps, not stairs.

Begin with deciding which areas need ramps. Porches definitely need ramps, but ideally entries to garages, sheds, sunken rooms, and 1-2 step stairs should have ramps as well.

Be careful when choosing materials for ramp covers. An example would be using 5/4 deck board to cover a ramp. While it looks nice, if it gets wet and mold grows, it will become slippery and ready to cause an accident.

Use suitable flooring that provides good traction when wet or dry.


2. Toilet improvements

Seniors may be confined to a wheelchair, which means that a toilet with ample spacing around the front and sides may be best for accessibility.

Look for raised toilets or those that hang from the wall. These will be easier on the knees and easier to access. There now are universal-height toilets that fit this concept, including new eco-friendly models.

You may also want to design the toilet area with grab bars to make it easier on caregivers – ideally you can install a grab bar near the toilet, near the sink, and in various locations near the tub and shower.

Don’t forget when installing the grab bars that they need to be firmly attached to the wall. In some cases, thicker material may need to be added for full support.


3. Shower & bath changes

Handheld shower heads are an easy change that can make a difference – shower heads should be accessible, preferably handheld so a senior or caretaker can use.

Also a shower bench or seat for the bathtub/shower is ideal for safety. As mentioned you should install grab bars near the toilet, and in the shower.


4. Better flooring

Ask yourself a few simple questions as you enter each room in the house.

First, observe the floors’ main traffic areas.

  • Does furniture obstruct walking areas?
  • Are there any loose cords that someone can trip over?
  • Are there stairs, steps, floor rises, or dents?
  • Should pet toys be removed?

Type of flooring should be considered too.

  • Is the carpet too thick?
  • Are there loose rugs on vinyl or linoleum?
  • Is wood flooring slippery?
  • Are floors damaged with missing tiles or cracked concrete?
  • Can stairs be eliminated? Or replaced with a ramp?

Also consider wet surfaces such as a shower floor or outdoor walkways. Slips and falls are a leading cause of injury and death, and fixing wet areas is a no-brainer.

We recommend using a gripped mat in the shower and bathtub.


5. Wider doors & entryways

If the senior you are making bathroom safety improvements for is in a wheelchair, consider the size of the door and entryway. Not all wheelchair models will fit through a standard-sized door.

Doors accessible to wheelchairs could range from 32-36 inches across, while standard bathroom doors may only be around 24 inches in width.


6. Make kitchen changes

The kitchen is one of the most overlooked areas when doing a home renovation for an elderly person home.

What’s the most overlooked aspect in the kitchen?

Countertop height.

It’s also one of the most expensive areas to remodel. Kitchen countertops are generally 3 ft. tall (36 inches) – the problem is that wheelchairs are restricted to a height of 25-30 inches. In a perfect world you are able to reinstall all of the cabinets in the kitchen to a height of 28 inches.

Limited reach also means no more dishes in the upper cabinets. With the upper cabinets eliminated, the lower area is going to be cramped. Use plenty of storage solution hardware such as lazy Susan’s and slide out shelves as these help for people in wheelchairs who may have limited reach.

And don’t forget to address lower appliances.

  • Knobs on stoves
  • Oven racks and display buttons
  • Microwave access
  • Refrigerator shelves

Since the appliances are lowered, don’t forget the outlets will need to be lowered too!


7. Better lighting

Lighting is another overlooked aspect when preparing a home to prevent falls. With proper lighting installed in strategic locations around the home, falls that occur during the night will be greatly reduced.

A good way to increase hallway lighting is by placing a nightlight with an automatic shut-off for the daytime. This will help keep the light on when it’s needed and turned off when it’s not, saving electricity and money.

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