When It Comes to Accessibility,
Little Changes Can Make a Big Impact!
You don’t need a major remodel to improve accessibility in your home. While wider doorways and barrier free showers are nice, even the small details like door levers and light switches can have a big impact.
As a Certified Aging in Place Specialist, we take a “whole house” approach of planning and building. This means we focus on much more than just major home modifications. Sometimes the smallest changes have the most significant impact on the comfort, safety, and ease of access for our clients. You can improve accessibility by updating these “Little Things.”
Interior Door Hardware: Levers Instead of Knobs
As we age, door knobs can become difficult to turn or twist. Lever handles, on the other hand, are always easy to manage, even when carrying packages. They’re inexpensive to install and substantially increase the convenience level of your home. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are suitable for many different door styles.
That goes for cabinet pulls too. D-shaped pulls that are a little deeper make it easier to open doors and drawers compared to knobs or shallow pulls. You can even add touch-to-open mechanisms to open your cabinets with the simple touch from your hand or knee.
Rocker-style light switches are easier than the lever-style and easy to change. If you’re tech savvy, smart switches can really help. They install in the same space as a regular light switch and allow you to control your lights at the switch, by phone or by a voice assistant like Alexa or Google Home.
Good, not just adequate, lighting can make a world of difference in how a home looks and performs. Nothing improves safety like a little more light. Changing bulbs to a brighter LED light such as a 4000K is a quick and inexpensive fix. If you have a bit more to add to the budget, toe kick lighting is a popular feature to add for more visibility, especially in a bathroom. In addition, lighting can be attached to a dimmer switch or motion sensor allowing for low lighting at night providing for a clear path to a bathroom or kitchen. Motion sensors are inexpensive to buy and install and will automatically turn on a lamp when entering a room.
Bathroom and Kitchen Faucets Also Improve Accessibility
Yes, there are lots of simple solutions here. We like lever-style faucets instead of turn knobs. One step further is a single lever instead of a double. Another favorite feature are the kitchen faucets that turn on with just a wave of your hand or with the sound of your voice. And a recent innovation is color sensor technology for water temperature alerts. If the water is too hot, you will see a red-light warning!
Still Climbing Stairs but Not Ready for the “Lift”?
Not many homes in our area have stairs, however, if you’re one of the few, consider installing railings on both sides of the staircase. It’s a small but beneficial way to reduce falls (and make climbing stairs a lot easier). Adding extra lighting at the top and bottom of your staircase is also a great safety feature.
Grab bars are another inexpensive way to make your bathroom safer. Make sure they are solidly-anchored to the wall (no suction cups). Decorative bars are readily available and can be disguised as towel racks, soap holders, etc. Another simple but no-cost option is to re-organize bathroom storage to bring commonly used items and supplies within easy reach. And finally, add rubberized cushioned mats to your bathtub and shower to avoid slipping.
Adjustable Shower Heads
A simple, low-cost solution that is useful when seated or standing in the shower is the installation of a handheld shower head on a slide bar. The added flexibility is a safer option for people with limited movement. An added simple safety tip to avoid accidental scalding is to lower the water temperature on your hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
New Door Hinges
Are you doorways too narrow? Consider a door with swing-away or swing-clear hinges to provide a larger opening. We have other solutions to create wide doors for increased mobility.
Address Your Address
Aging in Place sometimes means medical emergencies, and that is when you want First Responders to spot your home quickly. We recommend a highly visible street address that provides quick and unambiguous home identification. Make sure the address is well-lit and clearly visible from the street. Often overlooked, this is a critical (and inexpensive) home improvement that can save lives.
Put Some Color on the Walls!
Using different paint colors for walls, floors, counter edges, and stairs really help with transitions. The cost is low; the benefit is significant calling attention to areas that can be safety hazards.
We enjoy discovering home improvements that are inexpensive but add safety and comfort value to our clients’ homes. Aging in Place doesn’t have to be expensive, and with thoughtful planning, smart, cost-effective solutions can often rule the day. The above suggestions are just a sample of ideas that we bring to clients when meeting to design and build aging in place improvements.