Home accessibility is an issue you might not think much about. But after a loss of mobility, accident, or other medical condition, it can become a top priority.
Depending on your specific situation, you may need to make a variety of modifications to improve the accessibility of your home. But how do you determine what changes you need?
This guide answers the most frequently asked questions about home accessibility.
How Do You Stay Independent In Old Age?
There’s a lot that goes into staying independent as you age. Genetics plays a key role, of course. But you can also support your continued independence.
- Keep regular medical appointments.
- Eat well.
- Stay physically active.
- Exercise your brain.
The more you engage in these activities, the more likely you are to remain independent and age in place.
What Is the Definition of Aging in Place?
“Aging in place” means staying in a home setting instead of moving into an assisted living, nursing home, or other facility. For example, you might remodel your current home, move into a smaller home better-suited to your needs, or move in with an adult child, either in the main home or a granny pod.
What Percentage of Seniors Want to Age in Place?
According to a 2018 survey from the AARP, 75% of retirees want to age in place rather than move into an assisted living or nursing home.
What Are the Advantages of Aging in Place?
Independence, improved health outcomes, lower costs, and social connections are a few advantages of aging in place. Let’s look at each advantage individually.
Aging in Place Supports Independence
Senior living facilities offer many amenities for those who need them. But few facilities allow aging adults to remain as independent as they would if they stayed in their own homes.
This is important both on a psychological level for seniors, as well as physical and cognitive. When people are more responsible for their own care and their own home, they are generally happier and healthier.
Aging in Place Improves Health Outcomes
How can someone’s individual home be healthier than places that may have 24/7 medical care? It’s simple — senior living facilities tend to have lots of people in varying states of sickness.
In other words, seniors are far more likely to get sick in a facility with other seniors than they are at home alone.
Aging in Place Lowers Cost
Even if aging in place renovations cost upwards of $9,000, that is much cheaper than the price of senior living facilities. Long-term care tends to cost upwards of $2,000-$3,000 per month! Even if home health aide services are needed in the home, there’s still a big savings in home modifications for older adults.
Aging in Place Supports Social Connections
By staying home, seniors get to keep the connections they currently have. Many aging adults have been living in the same neighborhood for decades. And over that time, they have built up a strong social network.
If they’re forced to move into a senior living facility, many of those connections may fade, leading to loneliness and social isolation.
What Is An Accessible Home?
An accessible home was built or remodeled to allow seniors and others with limited mobility to live independently. If you or your loved one can easily navigate the home, use and reach appliances, and enjoy the space with ease, your home is accessible.
However, if you have trouble reaching light switches, can’t fit a wheelchair into certain doorways, or need to be carried from floor to floor, it’s time to make some changes.
What Are Home Accessibility Requirements?
While the requirements of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) don’t apply to private homes, they’re often consulted to make a home accessible. Many of the requirements refer to needs for spacing and stability. Here are home accessibility requirements for specific rooms.
Home Accessibility Requirements for Entrances and Exits
- Doorways at least 32” wide
- Areas around doorways clear by at least 36”
- Paths and ramps at least 36” wide and rise no more than 1” per foot (a grade of 5% or lower)
- Door knobs for entryways, closets, and cabinets are pulls
- Rails for all stairs and ramps
- Covered, no-step (flush) entry
- A light switch installed by each entrance to rooms and hallways
- Non-slip flooring
Home Accessibility Requirements for the Garage and Parking
- Space wide enough to accommodate a lift on accessible vans
- Access aisle at least five feet wide between the accessible van and any other vehicles
- An automatic door opener with a safety sensor
Home Accessibility Requirements for Kitchens
- Counters must be 34” or lower.
- Clear spaces at least 30- by 40-inches or a 60-inch diameter at appliances
- Appliance controls mounted on the front
- Removable-base cabinets for wheelchair or seated access
- Pull-down shelving
- Open shelving for frequently used items
- Glass cabinet doors to make it easy to locate items
- Touchless faucets, pedal-controlled faucets, or lever-handle faucets
- Pressure-balanced faucets that offer protection against sudden temperature changes
- Anti-scald controls
- Pull-out spray faucets
- Wall or side-swing oven
- In-wall or at-counter-height microwave oven
- Freezer and refrigerator placed side-by-side
- Dishwasher raised above the ground and with push-button controls
- Drawer-type dishwasher, microwave, and refrigerator placed at different heights to increase accessibility and reduce the need for bending
- Non-slip flooring
Home Accessibility Requirements for Bathrooms
- At least 30” x 48” of clear floor space
- Counters 34” or lower with room for a wheelchair to roll under
- Faucets, valves, and knobs must be easily usable with one hand
- Toilet seat between 17” and 19”
- Grab bars in the shower and near the toilet
- Zero-entry showers free of lips and curbs at least 36” wide
- Slip-resistant shower and bathroom floors
- A handheld or adjustable showerhead
Home Accessibility Requirements for Bedrooms
- Grab bars next to the bed
- Easy phone access while in bed
- Easy light switch access while in bed
- A seat at the vanity or mirror
- A walk-in closet
- Clear space with at least a 60-inch diameter for wheelchair turning
- Easily accessible electrical outlets (at least 15 inches from the floor)
- USB ports installed on the electrical outlets
This list is not exhaustive. To find out exactly what is required for your specific situation, consult a certified aging in place specialist.
What Is the Home Accessibility Tax Credit?
Unfortunately, it is not a U.S.-based program, but rather a Canadian one. If you or your loved one live in Canada and would like more information, you can find it on the Canadian government’s website.
How Much Does It Cost to Make a House Wheelchair-Accessible?
The cost can be as low as $900 or as high as $40,000, but most projects are around $9,000. It will depend on the modifications needed for your specific home.
Remodeling for wheelchair-accessibility may include:
- Lowering countertops, cabinets, sinks, and appliances
- Installing a roll-in shower
- Adding grab bars
- Getting a portable ramp
- Installing permanent ramps
- Widening doorways and hallways
- Installing a chair-lift
Check out this budget the AARP has made based on some of the most common modifications for home accessibility.
Depending on your loved ones and their needs, you may want to change the functionality of each room. For example, a certified aging in place specialist may recommend moving bedrooms or bathrooms to the first floor of the house. That way, people with limited mobility can easily access them.
How Can I Make My Home Accessible?
Reach out to a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS). CAPS are contractors who have learned the information required to help your loved one to age in place. They are your go-to experts for assessing your needs and the current state of your home.
If you live in New Jersey or the Bucks County, Pennsylvania area, give us a call. We are Certified Aging in Place Specialists who will talk you through your options and the process.
Not all home modifications for accessibility require a huge remodel. Some of the most common ones include:
- Changing the flooring to avoid slip and fall accidents
- Installing ramps for wheelchair and walker access
- Widening doorways to allow mobility devices access
- Changing lighting and electrical fixtures and lowering switches
- Installing grab bars or roll-in tubs
What’s needed will depend on your or your loved one’s medical state and the home itself.