Retrofitting a Home for the Elderly: Common Mistakes to Avoid

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After hitting your 50s, simple home remodeling projects become more complicated. It’s no longer a matter of just choosing whether you want walnut for your cabinets or ornate granite on your kitchen island. No, it becomes more than that.

You have to think about practicality and safety. Research has shown that psychomotor skills wane as the years go by. With some of the demographic shifting towards an aged population, the number of people above 60 is quickly catching up. This shift will put some strain on the elderly care infrastructure.

Aging at Home Is a Viable Option

While aging at home isn’t new, more and more people have no option but to spend their last years at home with minimal care. Most younger family members will work or take care of one or more relative who is considered a senior. Consider renovation projects unless you choose to spend your early retirement years in an assisted living institution.

Nonetheless, such a transformation is tricky. Many unexpected problems may arise as you age. Failure to account for the future will render your renovations useless in a couple of years.

Here are some of the common pitfalls to avoid when supervising your project.

1. Renovating a Downright Incompatible Home

Narrow stairs, bedrooms on an upper floor, or a cinema in the basement might not concern a young and agile homeowner. Yet, they are a severe nightmare once you start aging. Going upstairs gets harder or riskier as your muscles and bones get weaker. Narrow corridors are almost impossible if you use a wheelchair.

The reasonable renovation would call for fixing such choke points. But widening hallways or getting rid of stairs is a massive project. You might end up spending a fortune and still fail to get the results you desire. Do an initial survey of your home and ensure that it can accommodate the changes you need before starting. If it can’t, consider transferring to a more compatible home from the word go.

2. Thinking About Only Yourself

Your loved ones understand that the renovation is to accommodate your waning agility. However, one way to stay happy and sane as you age is by letting people into your life.

A good trick would be throwing in some extras that will have your kids or grandchildren dying to visit you. Simple decisions that can make your home a great “holiday destination” for your relatives include:

  • Keeping extra bedrooms on a floor you can’t access
  • Retaining a music room or a dedicated home theater
  • Keeping a swimming pool and a deck

Even though thinking about visitors is noble and important, you shouldn’t let it derail you. Spend money you can afford after doing basic and functional changes to your home.

3. Building with Your Current Issues in Mind


Most homeowners remodel with current problems in mind. For instance, if your eyesight fails, you should consider a simple layout without clutter and easy-to-use electronics and handrails. You might be tempted to ignore widening your corridors or doing away with unnecessary stairs and lip raises at specific entrances.

While doing so can satisfy your immediate needs, you might end up doing incremental renovations as new problems set in. This can be expensive and frustrating. The better approach is getting a list of common elderly health issues and renovating to address these in your home.

4. Using Your Retirement Money on Remodeling

Another mistake you should avoid is spending more than you can afford on a remodeling project. This is common if you take on a house that wasn’t designed with elderly needs in mind. A massive project that changes a considerable percentage of a home’s interior is bound to be expensive. You can ensure that your project is within your budget by:

  • Working on functional requirements
  • Planning to avoid incremental renovations
  • Working with reputable builders
  • Knowing when a renovation is impossible

Trying to change an incompatible home for older adults is a money pit. The alternative option of selling the current one and moving to a new home can save you a fortune. If you are lucky, you can even end up in a home that won’t need any renovations to suit your new needs.

Even though there is a lot of advice on how to remodel for your elderly needs, very few people talk of the crippling mistakes first-timers encounter. You need to be prepared when having your home adjusted. Taking your time to identify these errors or working with an experienced builder or contractor is the surefire way to getting a practical result on a budget.

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