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How To Start Preparing Your Home For A Long Retirement

By KellyRose McAleer - December 26, 2014

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Seniors want to grow old in their own homes, a concept which makes perfect sense. You have probably spent most of your life paying off your mortgage, and you don’t necessarily want to give your house up to go live in a condo or retirement home when the retirement comes. But how can you live at home by yourself as your health grows more precarious with age? Well, you can prepare your home and adjust it slightly so it is companionable to your limitations - and here are three major ways you modify your house to prepare for retirement.

Make it wheelchair-friendly

You might not consider yourself as someone who will need a wheelchair down the road when you’re currently retiring in your late 60’s. But with retirees reaching longer lifespans than ever, you need to plan ahead for any kind of future you may have into your 70’s, 80’s, and even 90’s. In the best of circumstances you will need to make it easier for yourself to get from room to room and operate within them at ease. Planning for a wheelchair-friend future will help with this.

You can widen your doorways and get rid of extra throw rugs so you can easily maneuver the chair around each room without getting stuck or slowed down (regular carpet is fine to stay, as it is easy to move around on). The bathroom is a major area for the wheelchair, as you will have to know how to get yourself in and out of your chair and into potentially tricky situations, like the shower. But you can modify the bathroom to include more seating areas, and even add a chair to the bathtub if it makes things easier. And you may find it hard to deal with doors and fixtures when trying to maneuver your wheels or keep your standing balance, but now there are small improvements like getting doors with handles rather than knobs, or getting bigger light switches and cabinet handles that make all of the difference.

Design for independence

If you were home all alone for the day, could you navigate your way around the house? This means getting out of bed, cooking your own meals, and walking around without anyone else helping you. If not, then you need to start modifying the house and your lifestyle ASAP. Part of this includes staying active, which means working out. You don’t have to hit up the weights at the gym every week, but regularly walking or jogging will keep your body fit enough that you can remain physically independent for longer. But if this is not combined with great eating habits and a history of healthy living, you will need to work at staying self-sufficient in your home.

Whether you’re in a wheelchair or not, you will want to rearrange your kitchen so that the items you need to reach every day are on the lower shelves. In order to make yourself meals, you’ll have to have easy access to dishes and cooking tools without having to climb on a counter to reach them. You should also buy a back-up generator for the winter and summer months when it is vital to keep your heating/air conditioner on so you don’t become ill. One other consideration most people seem to forget is security: for your peace of mind and personal safety, consider adding surveillance to your home. You can go high-tech and install an alarm system so if anything happens you will have back-up there within minutes, or simply make sure your doors all have deadbolts and the windows are able to be locked at night.

Prevent future falls

Luckily, preventing future falls is not that complicated. Making your house wheelchair-friendly will help in this regard. Decluttering your living space means you will have more room to maneuver your chair. Adding a grab bar to the bathroom will help not only if you need to enter and exit a wheelchair to the mirror or toilet, but allow you to maintain your balance as you get in and out of the shower. Modifying your shower to include a no-step entry will also help and eliminate one more tripping hazard.

Getting rid of throw rugs from around the house will help you ride along smoothly, but it also leaves one less obstacle on the floor, as those rugs can bunch up and prove to be a tripping hazard. You can also consider rearranging the rooms of your house. If your master bedroom is upstairs and that makes it less accessible, you can always move your things to the ground floor. Transform the guest room or even the living room into your new bedroom! If making your way up and down the stairs every day is too much, don’t strain yourself.