When it comes to making aging in place renovations, budget often leads the discussion about what can and cannot be done to help our clients live and function more comfortably and effectively in their living space. Understandably so.
We want to offer the best solutions possible, but some budgets are quite small. Nevertheless, there is hope.
If we have a substantial budget, we can create an elaborate solution for just about any situation we are faced with solving. We can move walls, extend ceilings, add on living space, change entrances, reorient or reconfigure the floor plan – just about anything that needs to be done. We can be very creative and use high-end products, finishes, and materials to create our solutions.
When it comes to creating or offering solutions to our clients to enable them to stay in their home effectively for the long-term, budget does not have to be our first consideration. In fact, there are four things we can do to enhance any living space for a successful aging in place environment that is quite modest in terms of what expenditures are necessary to accomplish them.
If we did nothing more for a clients’s home than these four improvments, they would have an enhanced quakity of life and would be on their way to an effective aging in place lifestyle – even if nothing more was ever don in their homes. That’s how important, effective, and necessary these four fixes or modifications are. These modifications are the perfect way to start a modest or low-budget home on its way to aging in place improvements.
Actually, these modifications all are universal design in nature. So whether we are modifying a home to enable someone to remain in it as an aging in place solution or just attempting to create a universal design situation that would be an effective way to improve any home – and especially those occupied by seniors or those with a limited income or budget – these four strategies work.
To begin, nearly every home needs better lighting. Very few have adequate, sufficient, or evenly balanced lighting. The oldest seniors may still be hanging onto low-efficiency incandescent bulbs because that is what they are familiar with and all they have ever known. So the first step in creating an effective aging in place environment is to swap all of their incandescent bulbs with LED ones. This is the most expensive of the four techniques we’ll look at, but it is still relatively modest. With each bulb being in the ten dollar range (more for some and quite a bit less for others), it doesn’t take a huge investment to take out every incandescent bulb and install an LED in its place. Plus, this can be spaced out, if necessary, and not all at once.
This is going to provide more even light, safer lighting, and a lower cost operational option than what people have been using. In some cases, installing an LED bulb amounts to giving people a lifetime bulb, meaning that they will never need to replace them.
Another fix that we can make is to change all door hardware that is not the lever-style with those that are. Some doors might already be this way, but it is unlikely that all of them are. This is an attractive, stylish look plus one that is quite accessible and safe for anyone to use – whether seated, standing, or experiencing any hand or arm limitations.
Another easy change to make – for those home that don’t already have this – is the rocker light switch. Even builders are putting this into their new homes, so our clients may already have this feature. For those who don’t, this provide a classy, easy-to-use operational control that can be use seated or standing and by any aged person. This is a universal design feature that provides aging in place benefits – for anyone living in that residence or visiting it temporarily.
The last of the four inexpensive improvements that will make a huge difference is the installation of a single-lever faucet in the kitchen. Putting one in the bathroom is fine also, but, let’s start with the kitchen. This is an area that gets much use by those living in the home and others who by visiting on an occasional or temporary basis. The faucet provides safety, comfort, and convenience options by making it easier and simpler to operate.
These four strategies – the LED light bulb, the lever door handle, the rocker-style light switch or control, and the single-lever faucet – will turn any home, low budget or higher-end, into a functional home for aging in place. Of course, much more can be done, but this is a great and inexpensive way to get started.