The 6 Most Important Home Modifications for the Elderly and Disabled 

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Types of Home Modifications Available
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Live at Home with a Disability or Medical Condition
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Your loved one is returning home from a hospital stay. Now your main concern is planning modifications for the elderly or disabled family member to make their home safer and more accessible. 

Consider a professional in-home assessment with Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS). They can offer recommendations for home modifications for the elderly and disabled specific to your home and your loved one’s condition, including:

  • short-term improvements, 
  • long-term home modifications,
  • and a cost estimate.

Read on to learn the most impotrant accessible home modifications. These ADA-focused changes will support a safer space for the elderly or disabled people in your life.

What Are the Most Important Home Modifications to Make for Senior Safety?

Bathtubs, Showers, and Toilets

The Problem:

Bathroom modifications are the place to start. Getting out of a tub can cause an elderly or disabled individual to slip and lose balance. Slick, wet surfaces increase the risk of a fall accident. In fact, 80% of falls occur in the bathroom.

Toilet with grab barThe Fix:

Replace your tub with a wide walk-in shower that’s wheelchair accessible. Install grab bars at the entry and back wall. Update flooring to materials made to prevent slippage. Add extra fixtures, like a grab bar, to get on and off the toilet without strain. Taller toilets can also decrease the likelihood of a fall.

As an added safety feature, install automatic faucets that turn off hot water with a lever rather than a knob. This lessens the need to lean or handle the faucet.

A full-on handicap bathroom remodel is a sound investment that improves safety.


The Problem:

Uneven floor surfaces may increase the risk of fall accidents as well. Thresholds can prove difficult to navigate for disabled individuals. Sudden changes of flooring (carpet to hardwood floor, for example) can cause problems, too. Even six inches might feel like a mountain to those with limited mobility or a disability.

The Fix:

Even out existing flooring or install consistent flooring throughout the home to create easy access everywhere. Removable ramps offer smooth transitions in and out of the home. If ramps would be too steep in a certain location, a lift might make a more seamless option.

These are typical home modifications for people with reduced mobility.

Stairs & Mobility in the Home

The Problem:

Even with a railing, each step poses a huge risk for a serious fall. Stairs become a hurdle over time for many seniors with limited mobility or balance. Carpeting on stairs worsens this situation. On top of that, lighting in stairwells often fails to properly illuminate steps and transition areas.

Stair liftThe Fix:

Home modifications such as stair lifts, glides, or additional handrails make each step clear and reachable. Consider replacing lights or installing new lighting to support seniors with limited vision.

For home modifications for elderly and disabled individuals, remember that mobility tends to decline over time. Prepare now.


The Problem:

Tile flooring becomes slippery and hazardous when wet. Rugs or other irregular floor types can make walkways uneven. As discussed above, inconsistent surfaces cause problems for seniors with limited mobility.

The Fix:

Add rubber backing to rugs to prevent rumpling or hills along the floor. Look into floor treatments or peel-and-stick traction strips that permanently eliminate slip-and-fall risks.


The Problem:

Poor lighting is all too common in many older houses. Since many seniors have a decline in vision, poor lighting can increase trip hazards on rugs or other obstacles in darkened hallways. Light switches and electrical outlets might also be out of reach for a disabled loved one in a wheelchair.

The Fix:

Install supplementary light fixtures in corners and walkways. LED bulbs are brighter than traditional bulbs. And they don’t require constant replacement. In addition, consider moving light switches and outlets to more accessible locations. It’s a simple but impactful home modification to make for the elderly and disabled.

Wheelchair Accessibility

The Problem:

Over half of all seniors require a wheelchair to assist their mobility. But not many homes are built to accommodate the requirements of wheelchairs:

  • wider doorways,
  • ramps,
  • or even a chair lift for second floor bedrooms.

Wheelchair accessibilityThe Fix:

Flatten out lips and thresholds throughout the house that limit wheelchair access. Measure doorways and other entryways, and increase the width where needed.

Also assure that your loved one can reach cabinets and closets from wheelchair height.



Before Starting Home Modifications for the Elderly and Disabled 

It is important to perform a home assessment to understand how the senior or person with disabilities lives in his or her environment. The types of home modifications available for elderly and disabled individuals can differ widely depending on their specific disabilities or situation requirements.

While seniors might weigh the options of a home remodel against assisted living facilities or apartment living, disabled individuals of all ages can benefit from purchasing and remodeling an older house. The renovation costs for more aged homes may prove less expensive if the resident intends to remain there for years to come.

And of course, as with all real estate, location matters. If your house is located in an area with a high number of handicapped or older people, like near a hospital serving disabled veterans, an area where people tend to retire, or even within an existing 55+ retirement community, you might gain resale value from your home modifications for disabled persons.

Your Loved One Can Often Still Live at Home with a Disability or Medical Condition

As we get older, our mobility and physical strength decrease. We become prone to develop chronic conditions. And many parts of our dwelling that were once functional become challenging. Older people and those with mobility or sensory disabilities often require home modifications to maintain their independence.

These house modifications for the disabled or elderly encompass both home structure and the addition of assistive technology. That’s by design. You’ll want to provide a range of solutions, from coping with the stairs of a second-floor master to ensuring someone with visual issues can safely access all regions of the house.

People with disabilities need an adapted home environment so that occupants can reside safely, perform tasks easier, and live independently in spite of physical limitations. The good news? This is very possible with modern technology and design! 

Home access modifications can be as simple as adding grab bars to a space. However, changes might also entail extensive structural alterations, like replacing a stairway, adding stair lifts, constructing a wheelchair ramp, or replacing a bathtub with a walk-in-shower.

Many home improvements for disabilities may comply with ADA standards, in which case they will meet the specifications of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Author Photo

The founder of Live in Place Designs LLC, Lori Bellport is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), a Senior Home Safety Specialist, and a Certified Senior Advisor. Lori and her team believe that, regardless of the limiting health conditions one may face, there is no need to lose contact with life, spontaneity, or the ability to self-renew and enjoy life.

Author: Lori Bellport

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