Home Renovations for Seniors
When I think of my home, I often find myself thinking of the tangible things I love. The way it’s painted, the artwork I have hanging from the walls, the mementos from friends and family that I hold dear – even the way the floorboards creak beneath my feet. There’s a lot of comfort in a home. For seniors, that comfort is compounded – they’ve often lived in the same space for years, their homes becoming an important part of their identity.
There are the intangible elements of a home, too – namely, the community around the home. Having good neighbours is something really special, and many seniors have the privilege of being surrounded by neighbours who care about them. As it turns out, this kind of support network is paramount to the health of our senior citizens. What’s more, most seniors want to stay in their homes. Governments have been looking to provide greater access to home care, in part because of the reasons we just discussed, and in part because leveraging existing infrastructure may reduce health care costs even more (health care costs are also reduced when seniors are surrounded by a strong community). That means that most seniors can stay in their homes for their whole lives, however, some home renovations may be necessary to make their lives better, and that is our expertise.
There are two focuses here: reducing the risk of slip and trip and decreasing barriers to mobility. The first can be readily accomplished by levelling everything out. Sidewalks with large cracks or gaps should be repaired or replaced. If they’re on uneven ground, you might want to level the ground. You might opt to use brightly coloured tape or paint in order to delineate the edges of walkways from the ground around them. Our sight weakens as we age and having contrasting edges can help you avoid a fall from the walkway.
You might also consider replacing any stairs leading up to the front door with a wheelchair ramp, even if there is no one in the home who uses a wheelchair. Stairs can get harder to climb as you age, and you’re more likely to fall down a flight of stairs than fall down a ramp. The damage from the stairs can also be more severe.
Those worried about difficulty remembering things might decide to repaint the home’s exterior. Painting the exterior in vivid colours can help jog your memory and make it easier for neighbours to help you get home. Having a door that contrasts with the rest of the home is also useful, as it can help you distinguish it and get to it.
Consider scaling back the amount of gardening or lawn care you do as you age. Creating a landscape that requires less manual care can be helpful, or you can opt to hire help to take care of your yard for you.
Locks for the door are an interesting question, and what type of lock you should purchase depends a lot on individual circumstances. Here’s what I mean: a keypad lock with a code or fingerprint can be a dream for someone with arthritis whereas, someone with memory issues might have difficulty remembering the code. Fortunately, there are workarounds – many smart locks can be unlocked by smart devices at a distance, so if a senior you love is having a hard time getting inside, you might be able to help them get in.
When it comes to renovating the kitchen, it’s all about making things lower. Lowering the counters, scrapping high up cupboards for their low to the ground cousins, and finding appliances that are low to the ground and easy to operate are all musts. Appliances should also be equipped with a variety of visual and sonic stimuli to let you in on important information. Here’s an example: a fridge that makes a beep when it’s open, or better yet, one that closes automatically. This type of automation is essential when you’re dealing with trouble remembering things. There are a lot of new appliances designed to reduce risk.
The bathroom is one of the most dangerous places in the home – more dangerous even than the kitchen. This is because bathroom surfaces are often wet, drastically increasing the risk of slips and falls. Slip-resistant bathmats are absolutely essential. You’ll also want to get grab bars installed, making it easier to get into and out of the bath or shower. Walk-in showers are also a great idea as they eliminate the need to get over the edge of the bathtub.
It’s prudent to have a plumber do a thorough inspection of your plumbing, ensuring your sewer and drains are clean and working smoothly while doing renovations. You may need to get plumbing replaced or repaired, but it will be well worth it; dealing with plumbing problems is tough at any age, but it can be particularly onerous for seniors.
Replacing doorknobs with levers is a good idea – door knobs are hard to grip, especially if you have arthritis.
Flooring is especially important to consider, given the high risks that falling poses to seniors. You’ll want to get rid of area rugs and other potential tripping hazards. Consider replacing hardwood floors with non-slip vinyl flooring, or another low-risk flooring alternative.
Getting around in a wheelchair means changing a lot of the dynamics in your home and there’s enough information on that topic that we might have to run a whole other article on it. For now, know that one can widen your doorways in order to accommodate your wheelchair.
Seniors are encouraged to get light fixtures throughout the home to illuminate shadowy areas. Fixtures can be preferable to lamps, as they can’t be knocked over and there are to trip over. Lights can also be timed to automatically turn on and off, great if there are any difficulties remembering tasks like that.
Natural lighting is also key to healthy living for seniors. There’s research that suggests that natural lighting is both more important and harder to absorb for seniors than for younger folks. Having large windows that let in a lot of natural sunlight can improve natural biorhythms, leading to a healthier and happier life.
Funding for Renovations
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the government is fairly invested in having seniors stay in their homes because it leads to better outcomes for seniors. That means there are some provincial and federal resources available for home renovations specifically tailored to seniors.
On the provincial side, the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation offers the Home Repair Program – Adaptation for Independence. For qualifying low-income households, the program offers a forgivable loan of up to $23,000. One thing to note about this program: it only applies to folks who already have a disability that the home would need to be adapted for.
The City of Regina also has a number of different housing benefits. While none target seniors in particular, you might be interested in their secondary suite 5 year 25% tax exemption. This can be particularly useful if there’s a senior who you want to care for in your own home. We can add a pre-modified suite or build to suit their specific needs.
Federal support for home renovations targeted at seniors is limited to First Nations people living on reserve who are 65 and older and if you qualify, you can be offered up to $10,000, or up to $12,500 if you live in remote or northern areas.
We want you to know about all the funding available because we can renovate your home into a place where you won’t just live – you’ll thrive. From the doorknob replacements to new flooring, from guardrails and grab bars to wheelchair ramps and landscaping, we can do it all. That’s because we have years of experience doing whole home renovations, and because we care deeply about our senior citizens. We want to ensure your home is a sanctuary, and we’ll provide you with the knowledge, expertise, and resources to make it so. We only bring our best, get in touch if you have any questions at all, and we’ll help you come up with a renovation plan tailor-made to your needs.
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