Steps for Converting a House into a Senior Friendly Home

There are many changes to consider when you're updating a home to be senior friendly. From senior-friendly bathroom fixtures to kitchen conveniences, you want to do it right. Use these novel ideas to prepare your or your loved one's home for aging in place.

Step onto a Brave New World

In a perfect world, a senior lives in a single story home with a no-rise entry or in a mansion with a functioning elevator. Most of us do not live in that perfect world. Follow the tips below to make sure your home is as safe and convenient as possible.

The pathway into many homes has cracked sidewalks and uneven surfaces. This creates danger zones. Repave and reconstruct level, smooth surfaces to for easier mobility.

  • Add non-slip flooring in the entryway inside the home.
  • Outside the home, add non-slip strips or scuff the surface to create improved footing.
  • Repair uneven or cracked areas on the walkway toward the home
  • If you can, create a no-rise entry with ramps.
  • If you must have stairs, install rails on both sides of the stairs. These should be at least one-and-a-half inch in diameter to accommodate aging grips
  • Increase stair visibility by using contrast strips on top and bottom stairs. Color contrast between the treads and risers on stairs

Transform entryways into safe zones for seniors.

  • Multitasking is a recipe for disaster. Create an area for your bundles and packages both inside and outside your home. Use the surface when coming and going to keep your hands free and your balance high when coming and going.
  • Make sure there is at least one covered entryway into the home. You want at least one area completely protected from the elements.

A room with a view makes a difference. Better lighting will keep your loved one safe.

  • Increase lighting at all entry areas.
  • Add motion-sensor lights focused on ramps and stairs. Also, point lighting at the front and back door locks

Build A Kitchen to Be Beloved

Aging mothers (and fathers) deserve a functional kitchen they will adore. Your goal is to increase accessibility and prevent bending and crouching. If you can improve the room's aesthetics as well, that's a double bonus.

First, manual dexterity decreases as we age. So make the appliances work for her, not the other way around.

  • Switch to kitchen appliances with easy-to-read controls and simple-to-use push button interfaces.
  • Convert to a side swing or wall oven. This will allow for easy access to the oven and make sure seniors don't need to lift heavy items over the hot door.
  • Microwave drawers are a great addition to the aging in place home. They allow for easier access and increase your countertop real estate.

Next, ensure there is easy access to the items in the pantry.

  • Change to an open shelving design for easier access to frequently used items.
  • Convert to glass cabinet doors so your loved one can identify items without effort.
  • Use Lazy Susans and roll out trays to create increased accessibility.

Then, focus on faucets. You want to make sinks easier to use and keep safe from water burns.

  • Install pressure-balanced valves to provide water at steady temperatures regardless of pressure fluctuations.
  • Take the next step and set the hot water heater temperature to 120 degrees.
  • Insulate any exposed hot water pipes.
  • Convert to a single lever kitchen faucet and install pedal-controlled faucets for easier use.

Create a Bathroom This Side of Paradise

Safe accessible bathrooms don't just happen. You will need to tackle the washroom to keep your loved one independent and protected at home.

Many slips and falls happen in and around the bathroom and shower area.

  • Add slip-prevention flooring throughout the bathroom and shower area. Non-skid bath mats, non-slip strips in the bath and shower or stable secure bathmats with non-slip rug tape all work.
  • Be careful; many cheap bathmats are not non-slip and may increase the risk of falling. Quality, sturdy products are available at your local hardware store.

Give your loved one a better grip. Well placed grab bars in the shower, tub, and next to the toilet prevent falls.

  • Check them to make sure they are securely attached to the wall.
  • Use U-shaped, vertical or angle bars rather than diagonal bars. Diagonal bars create hand slippage and may increase the risk of falls.
  • Add back bracing to the walls where you use grab bars. Ensure you can support 250-300 pounds.

Make bath time a time for peace and quiet. For many seniors, sitting on the bath floor is hard and standing in the slippery shower is risky.

  • Add a fold-down seat or bench in the shower. Some come with padded backs for extra comfort. Others will have a structure that extends outside the tub for easy bath entrance/exit
  • Install hand-held, adjustable height, shower heads with a six-foot hose to direct the water where its best needed
  • Home builders design showers for younger eyes. Add extra lighting in the shower stall for the senior user.

Follow these simple tips and your aging in place experience redesign will be a breeze. With less worry and more safety, you can make each day a real page-turner.


Written by Shayne Fitz-Coy

Shayne Fitz-Coy is the Co-CEO and President of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company headquartered in Williamsport, Pennsylvania with offices nationwide. Shayne has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Harvard College and a Masters in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. Shayne hails from Maryland, and now calls the Bay Area home.