Is your home retirement ready?Lifestyle
While previous generations of retirees were likely to downsize and head to warmer locales, an AARP study found that 78 percent of people age 45 and older want to stay in their current home through retirement. And of those age 65 and older, 88 percent would like to stay put.
"There's always been an expectation that when people retire they will head to warmer weather and kick back a little, but today those notions about what people want from retirement are changing dramatically," says Jennifer Wallace-Brodeur, senior advisor, programs, Livable Communities in AARP's Public Policy Institute program.
However, this new trend of staying put requires a little elbow grease, since many homes need updating to make sure they remain appropriate living spaces no matter how old you are or what your physical abilities are, adds Rachel Adelson, author of Staying Power: Age-Proof Your Home for Comfort, Safety and Style.
"We tend to underestimate future disabilities and illnesses because we're optimistic as a species," says Adelson. "But we know that our vision will change. We know that we may develop arthritis. There are a number of things that are predictable about aging and we need to think about them."
What follows is a quick list of things to check for around your home that will make it easier to age in place. You won't need to dive into all of these updates right away, but it's smart to know what you'll want to change so that you can make a priority list and budget.
Doorways may need to be widened: 32 inches with a straight-in approach is recommended; 36 inches if any turns are involved. Any steps leading into the house should have riser heights between 6 and 7.5 inches. Ideally at least one entryway should not have steps
Floors should be level and smooth in order to prevent falls. "Falls can be life-changing for older adults," says Adelson. "Many people who fall never go back to independent living." It's also important to remove scatter rugs and secure lamp cords and other electronic cords that pose a tripping hazard.
Consider adding reflective, nonskid tape to stair treads. Install handrails on both sides of staircases, extending the handrails before and after the landings.
Another issue that contributes to falls is a lack of good lighting. Bright, even overhead lighting is best. Having three-way switches in different parts of a room and at opposite ends of hallways and stairs means lighting is always readily available. If you can't retrofit the switches, consider using automatic night-lights in hallways and on stairs to make things safer.
Bathrooms and kitchen
Not only are you looking for trip or fire hazards but also little things that can make daily tasks a bit easier. "Something simple like changing kitchen cabinet hardware to larger, easier-to-open options can make a huge difference," says Adelson. "Likewise, installing grab bars in the bathroom is relatively easy and usually inexpensive."