Ways to Make Your Home Accessible for All Ages

November 1, 2023

As multi-generational families are opting to live under one roof, homeowners may want to renovate to accommodate this growing demographic. Here are some tips to create an inviting home, while also maintaining universal appeal for all occupants regardless of age.

Keep your options open When planning renos, keep your floor plan flexible. Resist the urge to take down walls and keep that main floor guest room or office intact; it could one day be converted to a master bedroom or a separate space for young adults. Pick non-slip flooring like carpet or vinyl and keep door frames and hallways as wide as possible to accommodate all levels of accessibility.

Update your cabinet hardware Switch traditional knobs with practical grab handles. These are easier to manage in general, whether your in a seated position or have limited hand strength due to conditions like arthritis.

Strategically select your appliances Choose stove tops with easy-to-reach controllers at the front of the unit, install the microwave under the kitchen island or on the counter-top for easy access, and place front-load laundry machines side by side with the dryer instead of stacking.

Widen doorways Many wheelchairs and walkers are too wide to easily maneuver through doorways. Widening doorways can be a costly job (up to $1,000 in some cases), but you can use some offset hinges to help swing the door clear of the opening to inexpensively add a couple inches of space.

Build a ramp A ramp to a doorway will not only help those in wheelchairs, but anyone with mobility difficulties. To build a ramp you’ll likely need a permit, so check local building codes before you begin construction.

Add grab bars Grab bars will help with stability in the bathroom—especially around the shower and toilet. A standard 1-1/2-inch diameter bar works for most people’s grip.

Install a riser A toilet riser can make it easier for those who have trouble bending over or standing up and sitting down. Risers can be purchased at home improvement and many drug stores, and usually, cost less than $50.

Step-In showers Bathtubs, with their high sides, can cause problems for those with mobility issues. Instead, think about converting the space to a step-in shower. Install a shower bench for even more support.

Rethink flooring Rugs and thick carpeting can not only make it difficult for those in wheelchairs and with walkers, but they can also be a tripping hazard for everyone. Consider hardwood flooring, vinyl or ceramic tile.

Lower closet rods Consider lowering closet rods to make it easier to reach clothing. A height of about 2 feet from the floor will help those in wheelchairs.

Replace knob handles Turning doorknobs and some faucets can be a challenge for those with dexterity and hand coordination issues. Replace those round doorknobs and faucet handles with lever handles.

Consider furniture placement To allow ease of movement, make a path of at least 32 inches between furniture pieces. You may also need to raise furniture to help some people sit comfortably. You can achieve this with furniture coasters or small blocks of wood that are secured to the legs of the furniture.

The right light height Another way to make your home more wheelchair accessible is to consider things like lighting from different perspectives. Glare from higher-placed lights that angle down can be uncomfortable for people moving through your home from a vantage point that’s closer to the ground. To make sure lighting works for people at all heights, try adjusting the height and placement of indoor lighting, or invest in reduced-glare fixtures.

Switch sizes The size and style of light switches can make a big difference for people who struggle with fine motor skills or limited dexterity in their fingers. Choose lamps and light fixtures with larger buttons that are easier to switch on and off, and place light switches in an accessible height.

Try voice activation When dexterity is an issue, you might also consider taking manual switches completely out of the equation. Smart home technology systems are more and more common (and affordable) these days, and voice-activated systems to control lights, temperature, home security and even music can be a big win for everyone.

A seat at the table Make sure kitchen and dining room tables are high enough to comfortably accommodate wheelchairs or mobility devices that need clearance underneath. If you have a table that you love but that’s a bit too short, you can easily add lifts or extensions to the table legs for a little boost. Another option is to swap out the table legs for longer ones for more height. Whichever method you choose, don’t forget to consider slightly higher chairs (or adding lifts to existing chairs) so that everyone’s at the same level.

Add outdoor lights I’m a big fan of making the most of your outdoor spaces – and that includes making them safe and easy-to-enjoy for everyone. One easy way to enhance accessibility in your outdoor space is to install motion-activated lights. That way, no one is left in the dark once the sun sets.

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