Renovations and home modifications for aging-in-place

Aging-in-place home design is considered to be a rapidly growing segment of the residential renovation industry. So rapid, in fact, that home builder associations across Canada have created specialized training to award those who have completed the aging-in-place renovations course with the designation of Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist.

In order to accommodate an aging population, home modifications for aging-in-place are no longer an afterthought.

Aging-in-place means having the ability to remain in your own home comfortably, safely, and independently regardless of age, ability level, or income (current or future). The preference for many seniors is to stay in their own home with caregiver support rather than be moved into a long-term care or assisted living facility.

Aging-in-place renovations and home modifications don’t need to be obvious. Guests to your home might just be impressed with the ease of accessibility, wide doorways, and bright natural light throughout your home. They may not clue in right away about the full scope of mobility accessible features.

By using universal design features when considering aging-in-place home modifications, your home (or the home of the person in your care) will be safe and welcoming to everyone, regardless of age or physical abilities.

By hiring a home contractor who has completed the training required to become a Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist, you are hiring someone who:

  • Has experience with aging-in-place home modifications.
  • Is familiar with the unique needs of the elderly who are mobility challenged.
  • Is knowledgeable of popular renovation projects, and resources.
  • Can suggest solutions to common concerns.
  • Is knowledgeable about building codes and standards.

The goal is to build, renovate, or modify a home that works for the resident now, but is able to support them as they age. In addition to making the home safe, it’s also important to look for ways to reduce the amount of home maintenance.

All areas of the home should be looked at for safety. Home modifications that could be done by certified aging-in-place renovation specialists might include:

Modifications throughout the home:

  • Widen doorways, hallways and increase floor space to accommodate wheelchairs or walkers
  • Install accessible counter tops (at a lower height or with an open bottom)
  • Replace door knobs with lever handles
  • Replace standard light switches with toggle or rocker-type switches
  • Secure area rugs or runners
  • Install non-slip flooring
  • Increase lighting (motion sensor or photocell night lights, lights in stairways, sound-activated lamps, lights on timers)
  • Install sturdy handrails along both sides of stairways
  • Apply non-slip tape on stairs

Aging-in-place bathrooms:

  • Install safety grab bars in shower and toilet areas
  • Replace a tub with a walk-in shower with seat, or an easy access walk-in tub
  • Install an accessible vanity in the bathroom

Aging-in-place kitchens:

  • Drawers instead of cabinets (install pull-out inserts)
  • Place microwaves and other small appliances on countertops for easier accessibility
  • Install an elevated dishwasher, or one that has drawers
  • Replace cabinet knobs with door pulls
  • Consider an induction cook top stove (they can reduce the chance of burns)
  • Switch out a knob-style faucet for a lever-handled faucet

Certified Aging-In-Place Specialists work with the home owners to determine which adaptability features are most important to their needs and fit within their budget. You don’t have to modify your home in every way possible, but look at the options available, and think about what’s realistic for your situation, or if you are a family caregiver, realistic for the person in your care.

Everything from simply installing handrails and safety grab bars in the bathroom, to more elaborate elevator installations falls under the spectrum of aging-in-place renovations. Chair lifts, ramps, adjustment of counter height, main-floor bedrooms, curb-less shower stalls; anything is possible, as long as budget and home structure allows.

It’s important for many seniors to be able to stay in their homes because it’s an environment they are accustomed to, and they are comfortable navigating. They are familiar with their neighbours, may live close to friends and family, and have routine social  engagements. It can be daunting for seniors to suddenly have to figure out new routines and become accustomed to a new environment.

Home builder associations across Canada are providing ongoing training towards aging-in-place certification. Continuing education is required, as is annual renewal of certification. This ensures that certified contractors are up-to-date on current standards and new developments in the field.

Education is based on technical, business management, and customer service skills, all of which are necessary in order to know how to market to, and work with older adults and/or their family caregivers.

Planning for aging-in-place home design, renovations or upgrades is a conversation that you, as a supportive daughter or son can start to have now. Conversations should be based around budget, home structure, and, most importantly, needs now and in the future. 

Have you broached this subject with your parents?




2 thoughts on “Renovations and home modifications for aging-in-place

  1. Hello there!
    thank you for the opportunity to receive some guidance in our quest to make our home move liveable for aging in place. We are trying to get a walk-in shower installation in our new build bathroom. But, we are having trouble finding an adequate selection of shower options that allow for a wheelchair. Would you have any suggestions as to where we can go or who we can talk to about getting a wheelchair accessible shower installed?
    Thank you in advance for any guidance you can offer us.

    • Hi there Julie,

      I might be able to direct you to a service, if you provide the location/city.

      Thanks, Jane

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