Even if you live in a home with stairs, there are ways to make your home more senior-friendly, so you can age in place instead of moving.
Stairs are the single biggest reason that most seniors want to downsize into a ranch or patio home, but almost any staircase can accommodate a stair elevator — a chair which can transport you from one floor to the next, even around curves. We had a stair elevator on the stairs to our basement in the ranch home we sold last year. We used it mostly for transporting heavy items to and from the basement, including those big purchases from Costco which didn’t fit in our kitchen cabinets or pantry. The seat on a stair elevator folds up so you can walk past it easily.
Some new homes are built with 4-foot square closets one above the other which could be sacrificed later on to install an elevator. If you’re having a custom home built, consider that idea. Even if you never make that conversion, it’s a feature that could raise your home’s resale value.
A handyman can often design and build ramps onto your front porch, into your back yard or from your attached garage into the home.
Rita and I are big fans of “chair height” toilets, which cost no more than regular toilets and can be swapped out by a handyman, making it a pretty affordable enhancement. A handyman can also install grab bars in multiple places around your home, especially in bathrooms.
Other easy and affordable improvements could include installing lever door handles to replace door knobs. Another might be to install a video door bell so you can see who’s at your door from your chair (or from afar when on vacation — a stranger ringing your bell wouldn’t know you’re not home).
There are also internet-connected electric deadbolts which you can lock or unlock using a smartphone. Speaking of security, you can also install internet-connected cameras which not only give you a live view of your interior or exterior spaces but also store that video in the “cloud” for later viewing or sharing.
You might have the handyman install motion-sensing light switches in your garage or bathrooms to turn on those lights when you enter. A photocell light switch can turn on your porch light at sunset. You can purchase both types of those switches at any hardware store.
One reader suggests a countertop microwave oven as being more convenient than a wall-mounted one for a wheelchair-bound senior.
For bathing, you can buy a walk-in bathtub, but that’s a pretty expensive improvement that won’t necessarily improve your home’s resale value. It could even hurt it. Most seniors prefer a shower, and one that you can roll into is best. At least build a walk-in shower with a bench and hose attachment.
A home with zero outside maintenance is ideal for seniors, but “patio homes” are few and far between and sell quickly when they come on the market. I’ve had clients lose bidding wars for a patio home.
The primary feature of a patio home is that the HOA takes care of all outside maintenance, mowing unfenced front and back yards, removing snow up to your garage door and porch/front door, trimming trees and bushes, etc. Many patio home HOAs even take responsibility for repainting your home’s exterior on a schedule (typically 6 years) and have a master insurance policy covering the structure and your roof. You purchase renter’s insurance instead of homeowner’s insurance.
No patio home? You can hire vendors to mow your lawn and shovel the snow. We had a wonderful Vietnamese family which not only mowed our lawn as needed but did a spring and fall yard cleanup for a reasonable fee. Of course, now that we live in an apartment, we have none of those expenses, and I’m a big advocate of doing what we did — cash out by selling your home if it will produce enough cash to live out your remaining years.