There are common renovation challenges elderly homeowners face. Often, the emotions and the memories associated with their home are so strong that they are willing to overlook these challenges.
There is a sense of identity and dignity that comes from being in the familiarity of your home. But many of these houses are older, dating from the 1930s to the 1950s. What are the challenges to growing old with dignity, and without worry of physical injury? Are there typical renovation challenges?
We’ve talked to a respected and experienced renovator in Vancouver. This is his list.
Renovation Challenges Elderly Homeowners Face
Outside stairs and walkways
The front stairs of older houses are quite steep. They often lack a functional handrail and have a very small landing. A functional handrail may need to be installed. New stairs and a larger landing may be needed to decrease the danger of a stumble that leads to a fall down the stairs. Walkers and wheelchairs require a ramp. If the front yard of the house isn’t big enough for a ramp the walkway to the backyard may need to be improved and a ramp built leading to the back door. As well, handrails or a ramp may be needed to get from street level to the level of the front yard.
Master bedroom is upstairs
Some or all of the bedrooms may be upstairs, with the living room and kitchen on the ground floor. Some houses originally had a bedroom on the ground floor but were renovated to make space on the main floor for a family room or a larger kitchen. As the homeowner gets older, it may not be possible for them to climb the stairs to the master bedroom anymore. Some space on the main floor will need to be reclaimed and renovated to provide a bedroom. Building codes will require that this room has proper electrical connections, ventilation, heating, windows and emergency escape routes.
Main floor bathroom is cramped and has no shower or tub
The main floor bathroom is perhaps the biggest renovation challenge. They are small and cramped making them unsuitable for access by someone with a walker or wheelchair. There is no room to install handrails and other accessibility items . If a bedroom has been built on the main floor, then the bathroom will need to be enlarged or even relocated to make room for a tub or shower. Depending on the condition of the plumbing these renovations could require extensive work throughout the house.
If you have elderly relative and friends, you may have your own list to add to this one. There’s no denying that a person who chooses to age with dignity in their own home will have to plan carefully. At some point they will need to have some renovations done. The alternative is to sell the home and make a move into a more suitable modern building. I plan to write another blog post that highlights the advantages of making this move before things get too difficult. According to studies done by the Canadian government, most elderly people report that they are much happier in a home where they can be safe and get around easily. I've shared some of that information in a previous post.
If you know someone who needs help making these decisions please get in touch with me. I can recommend a very qualified renovator, and I can help with assessing the home. My hope is that every one of our elderly relatives, friends and neighbours can find the best solution to age with dignity and in complete safety, whether that means staying in their house or making a move.