Age-Proof Your Home

place planning Feb 15, 2024

To thrive across various chapters of life, make sure your place matches your needs and desires in the moment. If you’ve got young kids, play space is essential. If you like to host friends for dinner, having a functional kitchen and a place to gather is nice.

However, at the same time, it’s helpful to anticipate future needs and desires. If a young couple plans to have kids, additional bedrooms are key. Soon-to-be empty nesters may want to convert spare bedrooms to higher functioning spaces, like home offices. 

Perhaps most significantly, older adults – as well as family and close friends who host them – may wish to age-proof their homes to better accommodate evolving needs.


It is easier to create an age-proof home if it is one-story (Photo by Gustavo Zambelli on Unsplash)  


Key Benefits to Age-Proof Your Home

There are a wide array of benefits for age-proofing your home. Probably the most significant benefit is that it extends the useful life of a home, preventing a forced move from a home that one loves. In effect, age-proofing provides a homeowner with the option of living in a particular home longer. In an environment where none of us knows what’s around the corner, an age-proof home can handle a variety of life circumstances.

Age-proof homes minimize fall risks, one of the most significant hazards we face as we age. One in four Americans aged 65 and older falls each year, and falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among this cohort. All too often, a fall occurs in a bathroom or is associated with stairs, affecting long-term mobility and quality of life. It can also trigger a need to move out of one’s home. 

An investment to age-proof a home can increase resale value. In 2024, in the U.S., we are at “Peak 65” – as a record number of boomers reach retirement age, with an average of 11,000 people turning 65. Yet, the housing supply is ill-suited for an aging population. Less than 4% of all housing units suit people with moderate mobility difficulties. Attractive, age-proof homes are in short supply, and values should increase given booming demand. 

Age-proofing your home is of benefit to visitors of all ages, too. For example, having a thoughtfully designed bedroom and bathroom on the first floor is valuable to guests who are older adults and young families. Age-proof homes provide greater comfort and lower risk not just to their occupants but to visitors, too.


Renovations to age-proof a home can be attractive and functional (Source: The Stories at Congressional Plaza)


Common Steps to Age-Proof Your Home

Steps toward age-proofing a home can vary from small interventions, such as removing tripping hazards like loose rugs, electrical cords, and clutter, to major remodels where every space is modified and improved. As such, the costs can range from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.

Some common approaches include:


  1. Upgrade Primary Bathroom. Install a walk-in shower with grab bars and a built-in bench for added safety and convenience. Utilize lever-style handles for faucets for easier operation. Create slip-resistant surfaces in the shower and throughout the bathroom. Consider a comfort height toilet.


  1. Create a Bedroom on the Main Floor. If you have multiple stories, understand what spaces you tend to use most often and look to recreate those spaces on the main floor. Having a master bedroom on the main floor is often of the greatest importance. Creating a need to navigate steps on a daily basis can be one of the biggest hurdles preventing an age-proof home.


  1. Strategically Add Handrails and Grab Bars. Identify areas, such as bathrooms, hallways, and stairways, to place handrails and grab bars to provide support and stability.


  1. Improve Lighting. Ensure your home is well-lit to reduce the risk of falls. Add extra lighting in areas such as staircases, entrances, and hallways. Consider installing motion-activated lights for added convenience.


A number of online resources can provide more detailed recommendations, including the RL Mace Universal Design Institute.


Recognize that Age-Proofing Your Life Involves More than Age-Proofing Your Home

Age-proofing your home has a number of key benefits as listed above. However, it may not be the panacea one is looking for. Age-proofing your home doesn’t necessarily help you find purpose or create social connection, two critical ingredients for well-being. A common mistake is to invest in age-proofing a home that is simply the wrong home for a given chapter in life.

A physician, entrepreneur, and age-friendly community advocate, Dr. Bill Thomas says, “Too often we love our homes, but our homes don’t love us back.” In such instances, we are best to assess whether our homes deserve our love at a given time and, if so, how much. All said, age-proofing a home can be an essential step for those who love their homes and are confident it will help them thrive more broadly.



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