Make a Home Safe for Older Folks
Easy upgrades for older homeowners
Find Out How it Feels to Have an Old Hand
Safety Handrails: A Showerhead Grab Bar is a Big Help
For people with limited mobility or who prefer to shower while seated, a handheld showerhead is a terrific help. And even better is a handheld showerhead on a sliding rail that allows for individual adjustment. But because those rails are often flimsy, grabbing one could be a disaster. Look for an ADA-compliant grab bar with a sliding handheld showerhead. Here are 20 additional tips for creating a safe home for older family members and guests.
Widen Doorways With Offset Hinges
Navigating narrow doorways is tough for someone using a wheelchair or walker. Doorways can be widened, but it's a complex and costly job. An easier solution is to replace the existing hinges with expandable offset door hinges. These special hinges are designed to swing the door clear of the opening and add 2 in. of clearance. The hinge measures 2 in. x 3-1/2 in. and wraps around the door trim. You need at least 3 in. between the inside of the doorjamb and the adjoining wall for the hinges to fit. They use the existing holes and screws and come in a variety of finishes. Available online and at many home centers for about $5 per hinge.
Replace Toggle Switches With Rocker Switches
Photo: Courtesy of Lutron
It's easier for stiff or arthritic hands to press flat, rocker-style switches than to manipulate toggles. Rocker switches feature a big on/off plate that you can operate with a finger, a knuckle or even an elbow. Some rocker switches are illuminated to make them easy to find day or night. These great little inventions use a tiny bit of electricity from the circuit they're on to light a small LED or neon bulb, and they install as easily as regular switches.
Photo provided by Lutron
Replace Cabinet Knobs With Handles
Arthritis and stiff joints make grabbing small round knobs on cabinet drawers and doors difficult too. Replace these small knobs with C- or D-shaped pulls, which let you tuck your fingers around them, making it easier to open the door or drawer. Consider this for your own kitchen too. Adding new pulls and handles is a quick, inexpensive way to update a kitchen while making it more comfortable and convenient to use over the long term.
Extend Stair Rails
Christopher Edwin Nuzzaco/Shutterstock
Raise Your Washer and Dryer
To make it easier on aging backs and knees, set your front-loading washing machines and dryers on pedestals 12 to 15 in. above the floor. Learn how to build a simple washer/dryer pedestal.
Photo provided by Maytag
Safety Handrails: Install 'Invisible' Grab Bars
Safety Handrails: Add Shower Grab Bars and Do the Yank Test
Replace Doorknobs With Levers
Gripping and twisting a doorknob can be hard for people with arthritis or a loss of dexterity in their hands. Lever handles solve that problem. You simply press down on the lever to release the door latch without gripping anything. In fact, an elbow or forearm will work too, which is nice when you're carrying things. Many lever handles are reversible, which means they'll fit both a right-handed or left-handed door. (Handedness is determined by which side the door hinges are on when you stand outside the door as it swings away from you into the room.) But check the handle requirements before you buy so you get the right handle for your situation.
Add a Rolling Cart to Your Kitchen
Photo provided by John Boos
Safety Handrails: Add Grab Bars Near Exterior Doors
Photo: Courtesy of Prima
Install Low-Pile Carpet
Safety Handrails: Install Handrails in Hallways
Photo provided by PromenAid
Get LED Lightbulbs
The average home has 40 lightbulbs. Changing a burnt-out bulb often involves climbing a ladder or step stool and risking a nasty fall. If you replace those lightbulbs with CFLs, or even better, LEDs, there's a good chance they'll never have to be changed again in that homeowner's lifetime.