Aging in Place? Make These Renovations First

Older couple waving goodbye from the front door

A whopping 87 % of seniors say they’re fans of aging in place, preferring the homes and properties they’re accustomed to rather than a senior housing community or assisted living facility.

If you’re one of the overwhelming majority planning to stay put in your older years, then it’s time to start making some adjustments at home. Doing so can ensure your property is safe, convenient, and comfortable no matter what your physical or mental condition may be down the line.

Here are the renovations you’ll want to consider for each room in the house as you make plans for aging in place:

In the bathroom

  • Add an anti-slip surface to your tub and shower. There are stick-on treads or even spray-on coatings that can help.
  • Install a bench in your shower. A fold-out one is ideal, especially if you share your home with a spouse or partner.
  • Secure rugs to the bathroom floor to ensure they won’t slip when wet.
  • Add grab bars to the tub and around the commode.
  • Invest in a taller toilet. This will make it easier to get on and off once bending becomes more difficult.
  • Install a handheld shower head with a long, adjustable hose.

In the kitchen

  • Lower your counters. Typical counter heights may be hard to reach from a wheelchair or other mobility device.
  • Install grab bars near the kitchen table and cooking areas.
  • Remove round cabinet knobs and pulls, and install longer handles that can be more easily gripped.
  • Replace twisting faucets with single-lever ones. There are also pedal-controlled faucets as well.
  • Install pull-out shelves and lazy susans in all cabinetry. This will make it easier to find items without digging around or crouching.
  • Consider glass-front cabinetry, so you can more easily see where items are stowed.

In the laundry room

  • Replace top-loading washers and dryers with front-loading ones. 
  • Install slip-resistant tread or affix no-slip rugs in front of both appliances.

Throughout the house

  • Install grab bars along the walls, especially in spots you might be getting up and down often.
  • Switch out your doorknobs and install levers instead. These are easier to maneuver with arthritic hands.
  • Widen doorways, especially if they’re narrower than 32 inches. Wheelchairs, walkers, and other mobility devices generally require a wider entrance of at least 36 inches or more.
  • Consider removing tile or wood floors and replacing them with carpet. Carpet won’t get slippery when wet, nor will it require rugs, which often pose hazardous for walkers and wheelchairs.
  • Make sure your floors are level. If possible, remove any steps between rooms, or use a ramp to ease the transition.
  • Add additional lighting where possible, particularly in hallways and places you may be out and about in the evening. Extra lighting is helpful in closets and cabinets as well.

Out front

  • Add a ramp. This will make it easier getting in and out on a wheelchair or walker.
  • Install grab bars around the front doors (inside and out). In the event of wet or snowy conditions, you’ll want to have an extra safety net getting in and out of the house.
  • Remove high-maintenance flowers and foliage, and replace with no-frills landscaping or xeriscaping.
  • Add a cover above at least one entryway. This will give you a safe route in and out during inclement weather.
  • Install motion-activated lighting. Up and down the driveway, along the walkway and at the front door are the most important spots.

Other Tips for Aging in Place Preparations

If you’re in a multi-story house, you also might want to consider installing a wheelchair lift or elevator to help you get from floor one to floor two once your mobility is limited.

Smart home devices can also be helpful as you age, allowing you to pre-program your thermostat, lock your door via a mobile device, and even control your lighting, music, and security system with just the tap of a button. Consider asking a tech-savvy family member to set some of these systems up for you to add extra convenience and comfort.

Finally, think about prepping an extra room for potential caregivers. It would need the basics — a bed, nightstand, dresser, etc. Even if you never require a full-time caregiver, it would provide a nice place for loved ones, children or grandkids to stay when visiting.

Paying for Your Aging in Place Renovations

All these aging in place renovations might seem like a tall (and expensive) order, but if you’re a homeowner, you might not need much money at all. Instead of dipping into retirement or tapping that 401K, consider leveraging your home equity via a cash-out refinance. This will give you the cash you need to cover these all-important renovations without breaking the bank (or draining that retirement account) to do it.

Want to learn more about using your equity to make your home more senior-friendly? Contact a loan officer at Embrace Home Loans today.

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Aly Yale

Aly J. Yale is a freelance writer focusing on real estate, mortgage, and the housing market. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Bankrate, The Motley Fool, Business Insider, The Balance, and more. Prior to freelancing, she served as an editor and reporter for The Dallas Morning News. She graduated from Texas Christian University's Bob Schieffer College of Communication with a major in radio-TV-film and news-editorial journalism. Connect with her at or on Twitter at @AlyJwriter.