ARTICLES / General / Aging in
Place: A Real Choice /
By Helen Hunter, ACSW, CMSW
As people age, they may be faced
with making the decision as to whether to move out of
their existing home where they have raised family. Too
often, these homes are not conducive to the physical
challenges that elders may face in their advancing
years. A recent study of aging baby boomers shows an
overwhelming propensity to remain in their current homes
after retirement. As a result, many home builder and
housing associations throughout the country are
organizing educational activities to highlight programs
and support services, such as healthcare, chore services
and transportation, which will enable elders to age
comfortably in place.
Consumers who plan to age in place should take proactive
steps to modify their homes while they are still
financially and physically able. The National
Association of Home Builders recommends the following
There should be at least one bedroom and one bathroom on
the first floor. First floor living is a high priority
for older adults. Having a full bath and a master
bedroom on the main floor makes it easier for those who
have trouble climbing stairs.
There should be conveniently located and easy to use
controls and handles. Raised electrical outlets,
electrical switches positioned slightly lower, and
thermostats with large, easy to read numbers are perfect
for older people.
Installing lever handles makes it easier for people with
arthritis to open doors.
There should be no-step entrances. Having at least one
entry without steps creates easier access for everyone,
regardless of ability. It may be appropriate to install
a wheelchair ramp in at least one entrance as well.
There should be extra maneuvering space throughout the
home. Wider doors and hallways can make a home more
There should be drawers instead of shelves in the lower
kitchen cabinets, which would accommodate a person in a
wheelchair. In addition, shelves under the kitchen sink
and stovetop can be converted from storage space to knee
space for those who prefer to clean and cook while
seated. Changing knobs on the kitchen cabinets to
D-shaped pulls that are a contrasting color to the
cabinet doors make it much easier for the older person
to grasp. Changes to the sink area can include changing
the faucet to the single-handle lever type and
installing an extra-long hose for the faucet sprayer.
This would allow the older person to fill large pots
that are sitting on the stove.