Your home is an extension of your identity. And as you age, your identity changes many times. What you once called home in your role as a young family differs significantly from what you now call home as an aging adult living alone.
Over time, it can be challenging to keep up with life's transitions and maintain an independent lifestyle. Despite these difficulties, many people can't imagine leaving their home. Can you blame them? After all, you've probably spent a lot of time (if not many decades) curating your ideal home and creating cherished memories with loved ones. Luckily, modern societies and smart-home technology solutions make it easier than ever to comfortably age in place.
However, modifying your home to meet your ever-changing mental and physical needs (that inevitably come with time) goes beyond upgrading your home’s technology capabilities. Many homes are outdated and aren't suitable to safely remain living in during your golden years. If possible, make changes to your home now and save yourself from stressing about taking on remodeling projects later.
Of course, being preventative is always smart, but it might not be an option for you depending on your current situation—and that's okay! Below are 5 home hacks to help you live independently and enjoy a secure and fulfilling life in the place near and dear to your heart.
Living alone shouldn’t mean worrying about you or your home’s safety. If your doorbell is outdated or inoperable, it’s time to upgrade to the latest technology: wireless doorbells. These smart devices (you can browse some of the best options here) provide convenience and peace of mind with video capabilities that allow you to view, talk to, and accommodate regular visitors (like home health aids or your local pet-sitting service) right from your smartphone.
As you grow old, it’s challenging to maintain a daily wellness routine with the same ease as your younger years–this is especially true if your mobility is now limited. You can combat this by making changes to your bathroom that improve both safety and efficiency.
Soaking in a tub certainly does wonders for your mind and body, but it’s not a functional choice for safely aging in place. Avoid potential injuries by installing a walk-in shower with support handles. This modification eliminates the need to step over a tub and also reduces the risk of falling.
If you decide to take on a larger project (like relocating your bathroom or creating a brand new one,) get some help from reputable plumbers in the area. Ask friends and neighbors who they recommend hiring for extensive plumbing needs, or, if you’re tech-savvy, you can search for plumbers online and access all the info you need to ensure you hire the right pro for the job.
If you would like to live in your home for the rest of your life, it’s time to minimize your belongings. A clutter-free home creates a safe environment to move around in and eliminates trip hazards–which helps to reduce your risk of injury from falling. Pull-down shelves make it easy and safe to access cooking equipment without anything falling on top of your head.
Install storage systems in your closets to help you see and access the items you use daily. If you’d like some extra help keeping up with your home, hire a maid or routine cleaning service to come in and organize or clean for you. Your golden years should be spent enjoying your time at home or out doing activities you enjoy, so don’t feel guilty if you pass along some of the housework to others willing to (or getting paid to) help.
Living independently is great, but it can get a little boring at times. Improve your mental health and cognitive function by incorporating nature’s relaxing greenery indoors. Access to and views of nature positively affects your lifestyle as you age, which is important for staying active and healthy in your home.
Plants are a welcomed addition in any home, but for older adults, you might find extra pleasure in caring for them both in and outside your home. Once spring rolls around, you can begin planting vegetables inside to eventually transfer outside for a small garden. Tending to a garden is good for your mind and body. Research shows gardeners eat more vegetables, which leads to a healthier diet.
When you live alone, it can be hard to keep up with regular maintenance projects at home. One specific task that should be part of your routine home maintenance list though is regularly testing carbon monoxide monitors. Carbon monoxide poisoning is extremely dangerous, and you might not know right away that you are in danger.
Smart carbon monoxide alarms are an excellent solution for seniors living alone since they monitor the levels in your home on their own. Some options even connect to other smart devices, so you can keep an eye on your home even while you’re away.
Craft a plan for how you’d like to modify your home now so you can feel supported and easily transition your lifestyle as you get older. For more tips, check out our Age in Place Timeline.