Aging in Place: How to Improve Wheelchair Accessibility for Seniors with Limited Mobility

As we age, we have new needs when it comes to home design. With upgraded home designs and some new materials, at Mr. Handyman®, we can introduce an aging-in-place design that fits all of our new healthcare and mobility needs, including wheelchair accessibility.

Whether you have limited mobility or just need a little extra assistance around the house, here are some aging-in-place remodeling recommendations to make your home safer, more accessible, and more comfortable long into your golden years.

Install Ramps in All Necessary Areas

When it comes to being wheelchair accessible, ramps can make all the difference when it comes to entering and exiting your home. Whether you need a ramp on your front porch or one to help you off the deck in your backyard, there are plenty of permanent, custom, and removable ramp options to help seniors with limited mobility move around freely.

Sometimes, like if you have surgery, you might only need to use a wheelchair for a short amount of time. In this case, a removable or temporary ramp would be your best option. It provides the needed assistance without making a permanent change.

If you need a longer-lasting solution, consider installing a permanent wheelchair ramp. Usually made using metal, these ramps can be secured directly to your home. Although these ramps are safe to use for a long amount of time, some people consider them unsightly.

If that is the case, consider hiring a handyman or other home professional to design a custom wheelchair ramp that blends in more with the aesthetic and style of your home.

Improve Wheelchair-Accessibility in Bathrooms and Kitchens

Taking care of personal hygiene tasks is much easier when grab bars are installed in your shower or near your toilet. They are also great in the kitchen when you need to move around while cooking or cleaning.

The ADA suggests that grab bars in these spaces be installed 33 to 36 inches off the ground. However, be sure to test the height and make sure they work for your specific needs before securing them to the wall. 

To make your bathroom even more wheelchair accessible, consider installing a walk-in shower or a bathtub with a door on the side. Shower benches or seats can also be added to make it easier for wheelchair users to transfer from their chair to the seat when taking a shower. When using benches or seats, be sure that they are secured correctly to the shower so that they do not slip or move when being used.

Additions like grab bars and shower benches not only make the space more convenient to use but also make the space safer. Surfaces in kitchens and bathrooms (paired with moisture) are notorious for causing slips and falls. Having these tools to help with balance will go a long way in preventing dangerous accidents.

Use Non-Slip Flooring

For those with limited mobility or who use mobility aids such as walkers or canes, non-slip flooring is essential. Slippery flooring or unsecured area rugs can only lead to accidents and increase the rates of slips and falls.

When making homes wheelchair-accessible, most homeowners opt to install vinyl flooring. Rubber, porcelain tile, or bamboo flooring can also be used, although it tends to be more expensive.

As long as your existing flooring is in good condition and the subfloor is not damaged, installing new non-slip flooring directly on top of it is possible. If you are unsure how to install your new flooring or whether your existing flooring is in good enough shape to install over it, contact a local handyman or flooring contractor for help.

When brand-new flooring is not an option, there are also a variety of temporary non-slip flooring mats that can be used to increase the safety and accessibility of your home.

Enhance Lighting

As we age, it’s common for our eyesight to get worse. Increased lighting is key in any elderly home design because when seniors can see better, they are less likely to trip and fall over items in their way.

Many elderly home designs include LED lighting options or bulbs that adjust to the lighting outside. For example, during the day, the lights will be brighter. Once the sun goes down, the lighting fixtures will dim to provide warmer, less harsh light on the eyes.

Lighting should be installed in well-trafficked areas, such as the kitchen or the bathroom, to make it easier to visit these common rooms. This is particularly useful between the bedroom and the bathroom to make late-night bathroom trips safer.

Lastly, don’t forget to enhance lighting outside and near the front door, as this will go a long way in keeping your home safe and secure.

Install or Enhance Your Home Security System

When it comes to making your home more accessible and safe, a quality home security system is key. Installing automatic locks on exterior doors will help keep unwanted visitors out. Window and door locks that can be unlocked with a keypad or a mobile phone app also eliminate the need to keep track of keys and help people get into their homes more quickly. They also give far-away family members peace of mind, knowing that they can lock their loved ones’ doors from states away when forgotten or gain access in an emergency.

Motion-detecting lights are a great addition to outdoor security measures. Not only can they deter burglars, but the immediate light helps elderly homeowners navigate outside of their homes. Placing a camera by home exits and entrances can also help family members monitor who is coming and going from an elderly loved one’s home.

Finally, make your home safer by installing smoke and fire detectors and testing them periodically. In the case of an emergency, these detectors can save lives, so it’s important that they are in working condition. Other safety devices, such as electronic call button necklaces, can also be added as a supplemental safety feature. 

Incorporate Smart Home Technology

The amount of smart home technology on the market these days is impressive, and it’s only increasing! Consider installing some of these tools in your home when planning your aging-in-place design.

Things like smart thermostats, lighting, locks, doorbells, and plugs make it easier for seniors to perform daily living activities while also giving family members a way to ensure they are safe since many of these devices can be controlled by mobile devices outside of the home.

Elevate Toilet Seats

Another thing you can do to assist seniors with limited mobility is to elevate toilet seats. The less they have to bend down, the less likely they are to experience a fall. Elevating toilet seats is an easy thing to do to keep seniors safe!

Review Interior Design and Layout Modifications

Home designs such as lower sinks, countertops, and light switches can make a world of difference to those using a wheelchair. However, most homes aren’t designed with that in mind.

When looking for ways to make your home more wheelchair accessible, review your existing design and layout for changes like this. Hiring a handyman to lower countertops or light switches may be one of the best decisions you make!

Also, look at the slope of your home and the placement of interior stairs. You may need to install ramps to make it easier for a wheelchair user to move around.

Widen Doorways

Doorways and hallways, specifically in older homes, probably aren’t big enough to allow for a wheelchair or scooter to fit through.

The ADA recommends that these spaces be widened to a minimum of 32” to 36” for easier movement. Widening a doorway or hallway is a heavy lift and not one that the typical homeowners can take on themselves.

Widening a doorway involves removing the door frame and molding and checking for any systems in the walls, such as electrical or plumbing. The last thing you want to do is hit a pipe as you attempt to widen your doorway! This is why it is usually suggested for homeowners to contact a professional for this project.

Depending on the size and complexity of this project, it could range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. The best way to know for sure is to contact a professional for an estimate. 

Create a Safe and Comfortable Home for Seniors with Limited Mobility

Age, mobility, and other factors should all be considered when thinking about house plans for seniors. While it’s possible to make some of these changes and modifications yourself, your local Mr. Handyman offers safety and mobility services that can help! Our skilled professionals have years of experience in all types of home renovations, remodels, and maintenance projects.

In addition, all of our handyman services are backed by the Neighborly Done Right Promise™, which ensures your satisfaction.

To get started with your elderly home design or discuss your aging-in-place remodeling needs, contact your local Mr. Handyman near you to request service today!