ParentCare » Vol. 36

Aging in Place | Options for overcoming the obstacles

By Carol Marie DeRienzo

Aging in place is defined by the Center for Disease control as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.”

As discussed in our previous article, the first step in this process is to honestly assess your current living situation, taking into account your health and the four vital functions that are required for you and your house to be in sync:

  1. Can you enter/exit your home safely?
  2. Is your bathroom accessible and useable?
  3. Is your kitchen accessible and useable?
  4. If you answered yes to 2 and/or 3, is it useable with or without assistance?

Once you have determined what is making your home uncomfortable to you, you can start to research what options are available to make your home comfortable once again. It’s worth taking a look at some of the main areas of your home to plan for aging in place.

Being able to get into or out of your home is an essential part of enjoying your home, and there are many options to help you, depending on your situation. Just as important are making the hallways, bathrooms and kitchen usable. Here are some ideas:


  1. Landscape the slope of the property to allow for no stairs.
  2. Install a railing on one or both sides of your entrance stairs.
  3. Add a portable threshold ramp if there’s just one small step.
  4. Install an outside chairlift or a removable ramp.
  5. Add a 5-foot landing with overhead protection for easy turning.
  6. Add additional lighting to illuminate the walkway and entrance.
  7. Widen the front door to a clear 34-inch to 36-inch opening.
  8. Install a lever door handle, possibly with a keyless entry.
  9. Install an automatic door opener, similar to a garage door opener.

Hallway/Second Floor Access

  1. Make hallways a 42-inch width whenever possible.
  2. Install railing down one or both sides of a long hall, if wide enough, to help with balance,
  3. Install a second handrail on stairs.
  4. Install chair lifts or elevators to safely reach upper/lower floors.
  5. Add lever handles to all doors.
  6. Add additional lights and nightlights to illuminate the hall at night.


  1. Widen the door to a clear 34-inch to 36-inch opening to allow for ease of entry with assisted devices or two people, and add a lever handle.
  2. Install a slip- resistant floor such as ceramic tile (with a co-efficient of friction greater than 0.06 when wet), vinyl flooring in either sheet or tiles or a rubber floor.
  3. Add a comfort-height toilet, either by adding an adaptive device or installing a new, higher toilet.
  4. Install a pedestal sink or a vanity that is open below for ease of access.
  5. Add transfer chairs to ease access to the bathtub.
  6. Change the tub to one with an easy-access door or remove it and install a no- or low-threshold shower with bench seat.
  7. Add fixtures/faucets with lever handles and anti-scald devices in both sink and tub/shower units.
  8. Have grab bars, which now come in a variety of styles and finishes, installed in all areas of the bathroom by a professional to ensure safe usage.
  9. Add additional lighting and nightlights.


  1. Install slip-resistant, level floors such as wood with a satin finish, ceramic tile, vinyl sheet/tile or cork.
  2. Vary the height of the cabinets and countertops with easy-to-use handles.
  3. Install pull-down or motorized upper cabinets or open upper/lower shelving with no doors.
  4. Add appliances that are easy to use such as refrigerators with French doors or a bottom freezer, dishwasher drawers and ovens with a side-hinged door.
  5. Install a wall oven and dishwasher to ease-of-use height. Put microwave on counter or in a lower cabinet with a pull-out shelf below for placement of hot food.
  6. Lower cooktops, making sure controls are reachable without having to cross a hot surface.
  7. Add additional general and task lighting.

Whole House Safety

  1. Install rocker light switches and lower switches and thermostats to 48 inches off finished floor.
  2. Raise outlets to 18 inches off finished floor.
  3. Install a whole-house alarm with additional technology such as camera monitoring, remote controls and movement sensors.
  4. Add a personal emergency response system.
  5. Add a stovetop fire suppression system or monitor that will automatically turn off the stove.

These are only a few of the many options that are available in helping you overcome the obstacles you may be facing as you move about your home, but now the questions are: How am I going to be able to pay for these options? and How do I know who to hire to help me?

The next article in the Aging in Place series will help answer those questions: “Aging in Place ~ remodeling today for tomorrow.”

The Nurse Carpenter, Carol Marie DeRienzo, RN, BSN, CAPS, CHM, UDCP, is president of Solace RNovations, Inc. The mission of Solace is to use the eye of the carpenter and the heart of the nurse to develop customized solutions for all ages and abilities that fit individual needs and preferences to help clients stay in their homes more safely and comfortably as long as possible. For more information, visit

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