By Rita Wilkins
The Downsizing Designer

If you are in your 50s or 60s, and you are starting to have discussions about whether you should downsize your home or whether you should age in place, there are a number of steps you can start taking now to modify your home should you decide to stay.

Or if you decide to move, to downsize, or right size, preparing your home now with some universal design features will actually benefit you when you go to sell your home. Having some of these features are very desirable to baby boomer homebuyers, as well as homebuyers of most age groups.

If you start planning now, implementing a few of these ideas over time, you will be able to stretch out your renovation budget.


9 Simple Modifications You Can Start Making Right Now to Age in Place

1.      Better lighting

As we age, we need better lighting, so adding additional lighting will benefit you not just now, but in the long run.

  • Recessed lights

Adding additional recessed lights in selected areas (i.e., hallway, bathroom, bedroom, library) will help with overall ambient lighting.

  • Sconces

Sconces are both decorative and ambient. Add sconces in the bathroom flanking your mirror and also in dimly lit hallways.

  • Under-cabinet lighting

If you currently have undercabinet lighting in your kitchen, you are already benefiting from a great task lighting source. Consider putting undercabinet lighting in other areas of your home that have wall cabinets i.e., laundry room, home office, mudroom.

Your home will not only look brighter, but you’ll also appreciate the extra light as your eyes start to need more light.


2.      Change door and cabinet hardware

As we age, it is harder to turn doorknobs or to grasp small cabinet knobs.

By simply replacing your doorknobs with lever handles and changing out your cabinet knobs to cabinet pulls, you are already addressing an issue that you might as you age.


3.      Lower light switches

This is one modification that people don’t often think about, but if you were sitting in a wheelchair, you would certainly appreciate the difference. You don’t need to lower switches throughout, rather change them out in the most used areas (i.e., kitchen, hallway, bathroom, bedroom).


4.      Install grab bars

Safety is important at all ages, but as you age it is normal to lose some strength and balance. Installing grab bars in your shower or tub or next to the toilet now could prevent a serious fall or injury.

I also like to recommend a vertical grab bar at the point of entry and exit in the shower or tub. This is helpful to stabilize you regardless of your age.


5.     First-floor bedroom suite

While this is a more expensive renovation, it’s smart to plan this sooner than later in the event of an illness or injury, and later on, as your main bedroom suite should you choose to age in place.

Start looking around your home for rooms that could possibly be converted to a first-floor bedroom suite (i.e., dining room, living room, library, or den). Ideally, they are close to plumbing, as that helps reduce renovation costs either now or in the future.

FREE Download: Bathroom Design Tips


6.      Master bathroom renovation

If you are planning a major master bathroom renovation, make sure that you include the following:

  • Walk-in shower with a low threshold or no threshold
  • Comfort height toilet that makes raising and lowering yourself easier.
  • Higher vanity helps reduce the amount of bending.
  • Accessible storage that can be open, without doors, making it easily accessed if you are to be in a wheelchair or walker.
  • Wider doorways and walkways will help you maneuver more easily as you age.


7.      Open floor plan

If you are planning a major renovation, consider an open floor plan that allows for more accessibility, flexibility and better traffic flow.


8.      No step entry

If you currently have steps entering into your home, start looking for additional options that do not involve steps. If you were thinking about aging in place this is one of those areas to not overlook that could be incorporated into a bigger renovation.

If you currently have steps in your entry, make sure you have the proper handrails and lighting.


9.      Start decluttering now

For those of you who follow me, you probably expect to hear this from me since that is one of my primary mantras as the Downsizing Designer. When you declutter over a period of time, your job will be far easier and more manageable whether you choose to move or to stay and age in place.


If you want to know more about aging in place, go to my website

to schedule a complimentary 30-minute phone consultation.