One of the unfortunate facts about remodeling work is that there are millions of people who would benefit from aging-in-place home modifications, but many can’t afford them. My clients are often surprised at the cost of widening a doorway or converting a tub to a walk-in shower. However, there are practical and inexpensive products remodelers can incorporate into a project to help customers age safely and comfortably in their homes, and most of them cost less than $100.
1. Toilet seats that produce a soft blue glow at night. These help people safely locate their toilet in the dark to help prevent falls.
2. Decorative grab rails. A less-expensive option than replacing the tub with a shower, the plumbing fixture industry now offers attractive grab rails that look nothing like the ones at a doctor’s office. There are even rails cleverly disguised as soap dishes, toilet paper holders and shower shelves.
3. 3000K LED light bulbs. Seniors need extra light for normal tasks, and 3000K bulbs are brighter than the 2700K ones used in many remodeling projects. Key locations to install these are at the rear and front entry doors, over bathroom mirrors and in hard-to-reach fixtures, such as on high ceilings.
4. Traction control for slippery floors. Polished marble floors in a bathroom are an accident waiting to happen. Install peel-and-stick floor strips in the tub and on the floor just outside it. Or spray on a slip-resistance product that is safe to use on natural surfaces and doesn’t substantially change the floor’s look, color or feel.
5. Occupancy sensors/motion detectors. Replace light switches in bathrooms, master bedrooms and laundry rooms with the type of sensor you can adjust to keep the lights on for 10 or 15 minutes.
6. Pullout shelves. Wire baskets on slides are a practical alternative to bending and digging in a cabinet, and they can be screwed right onto the client’s existing wood shelves.
7. Swing-clear hinges. Replacing existing door hinges with these hinges can widen a doorway an additional 1.75 inches—possibly enough to allow a walker or a wheelchair to pass through. It’s a much cheaper alternative to removing and enlarging the entire door and frame.
8. Lever door and faucet handles. Elongated lever-style handles are much easier than rounded knobs for people with arthritis—and really, for anyone—to use. Install them throughout the home.
9. Handheld shower nozzle. A small diverter and handheld shower on a hose can be added onto the shower neck, with a bracket to hang it on when it’s not in use. This is great for anyone who might need to be seated while bathing, and it’s super handy for cleaning the area.
10. Portable ramps. These aluminum ramps with black, nonslip treads cost just a few hundred dollars, and they are ideal when the homeowner doesn’t want or can’t afford a permanent poured concrete or wood structure. They go in much faster, and they can be easily removed.
Dan Bawden, CAPS, CGP, CGR, GMB, a remodeler from Houston, Texas, is the vice chair of NAHB Remodelers. NAHB Remodelers is the remodeling arm of the National Association of Home Builders, representing the more than 55,000 members who are involved in the remodeling industry. Learn more at nahb.org/whynahbr.
NAHB’s Certified-Aging-in-Place education designation program teaches remodelers and other professionals who work with aging clients the technical, business management and customer service skills essential to competing in the fastest growing segment of the residential remodeling industry: home modifications for aging-in-place. Learn more at www.nahb.org/capsinfo.
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