by By Laura Gaskill
Hunting for a house that will work for you now and allow you to stay safely and comfortably in your home as you grow older is no easy feat. If you’re looking to age in place, consider putting these 10 things on your home buying wish list to ensure you can happily stay in your home for many years to come.
1. Covered, zero-step entry. A well-lighted, step-free approach to the house is essential to allow access for wheelchairs and walkers. Also, look for an entry that is sheltered from the elements and has room for seating both outside and inside the door, for resting or setting down bags.
Bonus: Lever door handles. Lever handles are easier to use than knobs, so if the house already has these installed, it’s a plus. If not, this is a fairly inexpensive change to make, so it doesn’t need to be a deal-breaker.
2. Nonslip, comfort flooring. Wood, linoleum, cork or even rubber flooring (which is shown here) are good choices for hardworking rooms. These materials are easier on the joints (and safer for falls) than harder materials such as stone, tile and concrete.
3. Table-height kitchen seating. Traditional kitchen island seating can be too difficult to use as we age — and the fall from a higher seat is also more dangerous. Look for a kitchen with some table-height seating, or room to place a kitchen table.
4. Drawers and pullouts. Being able to pull out shelves to reach exactly what you need is a huge help, so look for a kitchen with plenty of drawers and pullouts. This is something you can add to a kitchen in the future, but since the cost of kitchen renovations adds up quickly, finding a home with a well-designed kitchen already in place is a huge plus.
5. Ample clearance. Look for a home with plenty of clearance in halls and passages if you want to be able to accommodate a wheelchair or walker. In the kitchen, the Americans With Disabilities Act guidelines require at least 60 inches of clearance between opposing cabinets, walls or appliances for U-shaped kitchens; galley or “pass through” kitchens require at least 40 inches of clearance between opposing surfaces.
Bonus: Easy-grab cabinet pulls. Wide, easy-to-grab cabinet and drawer pulls are something else to be on the lookout for. This style is easier to grasp than small knobs and pulls. However, if the kitchen is otherwise accessible and well-designed, swapping out knobs for handles is a pretty simple change to make.
6. Elevator. A single-story home makes a great choice for aging in place, but if you do go for a multi-story home, be sure it has a safe staircase with secure banisters and, ideally, an elevator as well. Elevators are extremely costly to add to a home, so if you choose a two-story (or more) home that doesn’t already have an elevator, factor the cost into your planning.
7. No-threshold shower. A curbless shower (without a rim or step to get over) is easier and safer to use. Grab bars can always be added later, but if the basic design is accessible, you won’t have to do a major redesign down the road.
8. Main-floor powder room. If the home has more than one story, be sure there is at least a half bath on the main floor that doesn’t require climbing any stairs to reach. Some powder rooms can be quite tiny, so look for a powder room with enough clearance to easily maneuver a walker or wheelchair into the space.
9. Convenient laundry. Having the washer and dryer near the bedroom and main bathroom means less distance to carry the laundry basket. At the very least, look for laundry hookups on the main floor of the house, rather than in the basement or garage.
10. Accessible outdoor space. A home with an easily accessed, no-stairs-required outdoor space is a big plus. Look for a deck, patio or porch with direct access from the indoor living space. Even better? Large windows or French doors so you can enjoy the view even when you’re relaxing inside.