What I love about aging-in-place design is the way a simple, easy home upgrade can instantly make a huge difference for an older adult. As a DIYer planning major aging-in-place upgrades, it’s easy to forget that there are a lot of simple things you can do to make aging-in-place safe and enjoyable. And, best of all, most don’t require a ton of time or money.
Here’s a breakdown of some of my favorite home essentials and accessories for aging in place. In just a weekend or less, you can swap in these low-cost products throughout your parent’s home. You’ll be amazed at the difference a few easy upgrades can make.
In the Kitchen
Rubber Kitchen Mats
Standing at the sink to wash dishes or at the counter to prep a meal can put a ton of pressure on your feet, legs and back. Older adults fatigue faster and they can get stiff, sore muscles after just a few minutes of standing too long in the kitchen.
Anti-fatigue rubber kitchen mats are a smart way to help alleviate some of the pain. If your parent or loved one is in a wheelchair or walker, think hard about whether a mat would be safe for the floor. However, if your parent can handle the slight step up onto the mat, this simple kitchen accessory is going to make them enjoy being in the kitchen again.
This mat is a good size to place in front of the sink or stove. It comes in several colors, too, so it’s a fun addition to brighten up the kitchen a bit. The mat is non-slip, anti-microbial, stain-resistant and easy-to-clean – all for just over $35.
Kitchen Cabinet Pulls
We open and close our kitchen cabinets countless times a day. For an older adult, something as simple as opening a cabinet drawer can be extremely painful. Arthritic hands usually have a hard time grasping knobs. A sturdy, wide pull bar is best.
Here are some safe, inexpensive cabinet pulls that you can throw on your cabinets this weekend to make the kitchen instantly less painful for your aging parent.
These handles are just over $50 for a pack of 30. At 5-inches wide, your parent has plenty of clearance to grip the handle comfortably. These cabinet pulls are a great price for what’s a wide, solid handle that shouldn’t cause pain for an older adult.
This is another 5-inch handle that’s great for aging-in-place. I like the ergonomic design of these handles. They have a slightly wider diameter in the middle which helps with grip. And you can’t beat the price – just under $24 for 30-pack.
Touchless Strip Lighting
A well-lit kitchen is a safer kitchen when it comes to aging-in-place design. As we age, our eyes get weaker and it becomes more and more difficult to distinguish objects in poorly lit rooms. A dark room ups the chance of an older adult tripping over something on the floor they can’t see or knocking a glass or plate off of the kitchen counter that they didn’t know was there.
Strip lighting is maybe the easiest and least pricey accessory you can add to your kitchen. And now, with touchless technology becoming mainstream, there are a ton of great lighting options that don’t require an older adult with sore hands to flip light switches.
Here are some great, inexpensive touchless strip light options that will make the kitchen safer.
Using this touchless strip light is as easy as placing your hand under the cabinet for a well-lit kitchen counter workspace. Touchless technology is a game-changer for the aging-in-place home. This kit comes with 72 feet of lights that can handle even large kitchens. It’s a great way to add light with no risk of pain from turning on and off a switch.
This is another great option for a touchless under-cabinet strip light. It has all of the benefits of the first strip light but with just 20 feet of lights. If you have a small kitchen or little counter space, this may be all you need to add light to your aging-in-place kitchen for just a few bucks.
In the Bathroom
Touchless Soap Dispenser
Touchless technology is taking over the DIY aging-in-place world and it’s great to see. Motion sensor soap dispensers are becoming more popular in homes and they’re the perfect accessory to add to your aging-in-place bathroom. Not only do they make getting soap pain-free for sore hands, but they can reduce the spread of germs. Older adults have weaker immune systems so touchless dispensers have huge benefits for their overall health and safety.
This dispenser is highly sensitive and responds quickly. You won’t be standing around waiting for soap to fall into your hands with this one. It has multiple settings, is waterproof and is an all-around good product for just over $30.
Kohler has jumped into the touchless soap dispensing world. They promise a no-drip spout and an easy-to-fill dispenser. What’s fun about this one is its 20-second lighted timer letting you know how long to scrub. You’re paying for the Kohler name but for under $50, you can quickly and easily add a useful and fun gadget to your aging-in-place home.
Bathroom Cabinet Pulls
Just like with your kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets and drawers need easy-to-grip pulls that don’t ask too much of sore, arthritic hands. The pulls should be wide and ergonomic so they fit in your parent’s hand naturally. If your bathroom doesn’t already have safe cabinet pulls, put this at the top of your aging-in-place home upgrade list.
These pulls are all safe, low-cost options worth checking out.
If you’re looking for other safe, inexpensive accessories for your bathroom, check out my recent article on “Essential Safety Accessories for the Aging-in-Place Bathroom.”
Around the House
LED Light Bulbs
The less an older adult has to do to maintain their home the better. While it’s a simple task, changing out a light bulb can actually pose a real danger for adults aging in place. For one, lights that attach from the ceiling or are too high to reach are a problem. You absolutely do not want your elderly parent climbing up a step stool to change a light. There’s also the problem of the bulb itself. They’re hard to hold if your hands are old and sore. And, screwing the bulbs in and out can also cause pain.
That’s why I love LED bulbs. Don’t use traditional bulbs in your aging-in-place home – trust me! LEDs last much longer so you’ll be swapping bulbs in and out less frequently. And, LEDs don’t use as much energy as standard bulbs so you get the added benefit of a less energy-sucking light fixture.
Try these low-cost LEDs and make this the weekend you swap out standard bulbs for safer LED options.
Photoelectric Smoke Alarm
We don’t like to think of our parents in an emergency situation like a house fire, but a part of our job as aging-in-place builders and DIYers is to create a safe environment by planning for any scenario that could arise.
You can’t have too many smoke detectors in your aging-in-place home. As we age and our hearing dulls, it can get more difficult to hear even loud sounds. If an older adult is losing their hearing or just having difficulty with it, you can install a photoelectric smoke alarm. These alarms include a strobe light that pulses when smoke is detected. Between the sound and light, you can up the chance that your parent will react quickly to the alarm.
Photoelectric Smoke Alarm with Integrated Strobe Light. At just over $100, this is a relatively low-cost and critically essential device for smart aging-in-place preparation.
Once you have basic home safety covered, aging-in-place design becomes about more than safeguarding every inch of a home. I think some homeowners forget that while, yes, designing an aging-in-place home is first-and-foremost about creating a safe living space, it’s also about creating a home your parent will enjoy.
When you take aging-in-place design outdoors, you can really start to have some fun. Outdoor spaces are a great place to design with colors, lights, and textures that may be too bold for indoors. Brightening up a front walkway, back deck or garden with a few low-cost essentials can have huge benefits for your parent’s safety, health and happiness.
Small solar lights lining the walkway up to the front door or that border the walkway from the house to the patio are a low-cost, big-impact way to brighten up the outdoors and create some added safety. They’re easy, inexpensive and low-maintenance, and they make any home look great.
Modern & Sleek Design – a stylish light for a modern home
Traditional Design – the most common
Flower-shaped Multi-color Design – fun and very unique
Low-Profile Design – short, ground-level design
Another way to add light to the outdoors is with an automatic floodlight. If your parent or loved one is still driving, you need to make sure they’re not trying to find their way to the front door in the dark. There’s a whole list of risks that you can mitigate with just a simple $30 floodlight.
Here are a few quality floodlights to consider, each with an automatic sensor.
Large House Numbers
Make it easy for your parent to distinguish their home from their neighbor’s with over-sized house numbers. You can display these numbers right on the front of the house and find a stylish set that adds a nice design element, too.
In neighborhoods where every house looks just about the same, adding large house numbers can really help distinguish an older adult’s home. These house numbers are all over-sized with options for most house styles.
Time to Get Started
Take this weekend and add these smart, low-cost essentials to your aging-in-place home. Then, sit back and watch the immediate difference they make in the safety and happiness of your loved one.
As you make the upgrades, send me any questions on these or other low-cost aging-in-place products. Have fun with these essentials and, as always, good luck with your next aging-in-place project.