Ageing-in-place: How to choose a home to grow old in

Jun 1, 2022 | Australian Aged Care

Ageing-in-place is the concept of selecting or updating a home to ensure that you can stay there for as long as possible as you age.

How and where you live can have a massive impact on your care choices and your lifestyle as you age. It may even influence whether or not you can remain at home in the long term. If being independent is as long as possible is the goal, checking your options with ageing-in-place in mind is incredibly useful.

Here are some of the practical ageing-in-place considerations to include when choosing a house to grow old in

Ageing-in-place property considerations

When you are looking at ageing-in-place, you have to look at your current and your future needs.

Ageing-in-place is a mix of accessibility and making life easier. The main considerations include:

  • Is the size of your living space (house, garden etc) appropriate to your needs?
  • How does the area you live in support your needs – medical, social, practical and otherwise?
  • How connected will you be to this community in terms of socialising and cultural needs?
  • Can you access the health and ageing services you need in a timely fashion?
  • As the potential for reduced movement and disability increases, will you still be able to move around your home, local area and to the services you need?
  • Is your home and garden manageable in terms of cleaning, maintenance and security?
  • Can you afford the cost of aging in place when rates, heating, cooling, mortgage repayments, rent etc are also paid alongside care services, medical bills and so on?
  • Can you perform the functions you’d like to do for yourself easily? E.g. bathing, cooking, laundering etc.

Fixed movement considerations

a leafy sunroom with an easy chair for ageing in place in an old home

Photo by Arno Smit on Unsplash

Looking through the lens of ageing-in-place means more than choosing an upcoming neighbourhood for great resale or a house that’s style appeals to you. It’s also about considering how you will live, move around in, make use of and maintain the property itself.

This means modifying your home’s selection criteria to include questions like:

  • Is the driveway at a gradient or at an angle that is likely to increase falls?
  • Are the tiles used in the driveway and paths non-slip and/or resin bound gravel?
  • Is the house on one level to avoid the necessity for stairs?
  • Is there a convenient, easily navigated and wide access route from the front area of the home to the front door?
  • Is the flooring non-slip and free from potential trip hazards in all rooms of the house?
  • Can you make step-free entry into every room including the laundry?
  • Are the doorways and hallways wide enough to accommodate a cane, walker or wheelchair?
  • Does the property feature a high fence and/or video or audio intercom to increase security?
  • Is the house well serviced by power points and lighting to avoid using cords, power boards and other potential trip hazards?
  • Is public transport easily accessible from the home?
  • Are the shops easily accessible from the home if walking with or without mobility devices?
  • Is the lighting inside and outside the property strong, bright and well-spaced across the length of the property and grounds? Especially around areas where there is a drop in gradient and/or stairs?

Modifiable in-home accessibility elements 

With small changes or tradie renovations, you can also change some of the other elements of your home to promote safety, security and better movement while ageing-in-place.

These potentially modifiable elements to in-home accessibility include:

  • Is there space for a ramp at the front and/or rear entryways to meet changes in movement?
  • Are power points and light switches positioned to reduce the risk of falls from bending or reaching?
  • Is there space for accessibility hand railings to aid entry at the front and back doors?
  • Is there space for accessibility hand railings at the toilet and in the shower or bath?
  • Is the shower separate from the bathtub for ease of access, and is the shower step-free?
  • Is there enough room for a shower seat in the shower?
  • Is the bathroom floor slip-resistant wood, vinyl or grouted tile for increased traction?
  • Is the hot water service fitted with anti-scalding technology?
  • Are the taps in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry fitted with accessible tapware?
  • Are all walkways free from cracks, loose stones, and algae to prevent slips and falls?
  • Is the landscaping positioned away from paths to ensure walking devices can fit and wheelchairs can be hand-propelled without scratches and injury?
  • Can you access the kitchen and bathroom cupboards without bending too much or reaching too high?
  • Is there space in the bedroom for hoisting or lifting rails to help you get in and out of bed?

Other elements to consider when ageing-in-place

If you are considering ageing-in-place, a good trick is to assess your current furniture and fixtures to see if they help or hinder from an ageing and disability perspective.

This can be done over time as needs change. But a few things to keep in mind include:

  • Swapping cupboard knobs and cutaways for pulls and levers to make it easier to open
  • Helping your eyes out by choosing brightly coloured objects that contrast and/or don’t rely on fiddly detail to use them. E.g., bowls that contrast the counter, large print canisters etc
  • Planning for reduced motor skills by choosing storage containers with push seals instead of latches, easy open doors with two-way hinges, accessible tapware and so on
  • Choosing larger fixtures such as stoves, dishwashers and washing machines with large print and controls that don’t require leaning over them to use them
  • Avoiding the use of carpets, runners and rugs that are potential trip hazards
  • Adding grip tape or other solutions to stairs
  • Buying appliances with automatic shut off features and/or alarms if left running
  • Installing motion sensor night lights to help with trips to the bathroom in the dark
  • Replacing the fixed shower head with one that is handheld and adjustable

Does your suburb suit ageing-in-place?

Your home isn’t the only consideration to meaningful and autonomous ageing-in-place. Where you live in relation to your community, the needs you have and how you socialise will all play a role.

It’s important to remember that while you may be able to ride bicycle, drive a car and/or walk around now, you are planning for the future. Choosing a local area where you can get the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual fulfilment you need to live a happy and healthy life within an easy walk or on the local community bus is ideal.

On a suburb level, accessibility considerations include:

  • General accessibility. For example, streets that are flat with well-kept footpaths
  • Being able to walk easily to grocery shops and commonly used services
  • The ability to connect with the community for socialising and engagement
  • Safe routes to exercise. E.g., local aquatic centre, exercise classes, walking and bicycle tracks
  • Access to transport and changing transportation needs
  • Available medical and home support services in the local area
  • The level of noise and pollution interrupting rest and/or general living
  • The potential for crime within a suburb

Even if you are introverted and not much of a socialiser or shopper, being able to move about unaided and reach out and spend time with others is a huge part of maintaining your overall wellbeing. You may not be into social clubs or getting together now, however most ageing Australians find themselves at risk of isolation and loneliness. And that the best antidote to that is having the ability to participate in community, social and exercise-based activities with other people.

Always plan for a future need for human connection when choosing to age-in-place.

Think about your chosen location in terms of:

  • Access to Men’s Sheds and other supportive groups
  • Ability to join RSL, Services and Bowling Clubs for sport, recreation and community
  • Culturally specific clubs such as German, Portuguese or Italian clubs
  • How many people speak and understand your language within a given suburb
  • What kinds of community, sporting and social events are age-specific in your area
  • Whether there is a senior citizens or similar centre in operation locally
  • Places to volunteer and make meaningful connections such as op shops and libraries
  • The friendliness of neighbours and neighbourhoods in the area
  • Whether you share like-minded interests with the neighbourhood
  • The proximity to churches and spiritual guidance
  • Additional features such as community gardens and other such meeting places

Your future, your choice

Want to begin the process of outlining what ageing-in-place looks like to you? Why not start with the ExSitu hierarchy of values to see what matters most to you?  And take a look at this handy guide on assessing the kind of care you might need now and in the future.

Curious about your care options and ageing-in-place? Get in touch now. 

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