As you get older, the things that you look for in a home change as features that once seemed like a positive benefit can come to feel like a hindrance. Those with families may choose to downsize as children grow up and move out, as smaller homes are often more manageable.
Your home is there to serve your needs, so it’s only right that it should adjust with you as you grow older. Sometimes these changes are made gradually but, for many, there is a moment of decision when you realise that the way your home is set up is actually making your life more difficult, rather than easier. Here are a few ways that you can create a home more suitable for your stage of life.
Many of the possessions we accumulate aren’t actually needed in our day-to-day lives, but they often have strong memories attached to them – so we don’t want to get rid of them. Children who have left home may also leave lots of things behind, or you might have hung onto their old school books and pictures they drew.
These items can easily take over your living space and become obstacles that you have to manoeuvre around or lift out of the way to get to things you actually need. To stop them from becoming a hazard, it might be a good idea to put them into a self storage unit near you. These facilities cost less than you think and are available in a range of different sizes to suit your requirements.
These days, we’re all more mindful of the environmental consequences of simply throwing things away. Decluttering shouldn’t mean adding to the amount of damaging landfill we generate. If you really decide you don’t need your items anymore, try to find a way to recycle them, or to pass them on to a new owner. Charities, friends, local organisations and others may be glad of your cast-offs.
Some older items may even have historical value. If you’re very lucky, you might find you have a saleable antique or collectable hiding up in the loft. But even if your photos, letters and diaries, old clothes and bric-a-brac aren’t worth a lot of money, they could be of interest to local historians or libraries. Items could be kept in storage while you find out if anyone is interested in seeing them.
Once you’ve started to declutter your environment, you may find that you have more space than you need. This might be the ideal opportunity to downsize your home. Moving to a smaller house can have many benefits. Lots of older people prefer living in a place where they don’t have to go up and down a set of stairs, for example. Selling up and moving to somewhere smaller may also let you free up some of the money you have tied up in your property, which you may be able to put to better use.
For many older people, a smaller home meets their needs far better. There is less to tidy and keep clean, which means that chores are more manageable. A large house that once rang with the sounds of a family can seem lonely and cavernous when you’re on your own. Some people prefer a fresh start in retirement in a property that feels cosier and more compact.
Another advantage of moving somewhere smaller is that it costs less to heat the property, and it’s easier to do so efficiently. As you get older, it’s important to make sure that your home is warm enough, but with big draughty houses, you can waste a lot of money trying to keep the temperatures up.
Conserving heat benefits you as well as the environment. Look for double or triple glazed windows and wall insulation. As an older person, you may be able to get financial help if you’re trying to make your home more eco-friendly and manage your heating bills at the same time. Double glazed windows with secure locks will also help you to feel safer in your home.
If your mobility is declining as you get older, or if you have other health issues that affect your day-to-day living, there may be changes you can make to your home that can make everyday tasks easier. Ideas could include supports to help you get in and out of bath seats or shower, railings fitted around the walls for you to hold on to, or even something as simple as adjusting the arrangement of your kitchen to make cooking easier and safer. Sometimes, small changes are all that’s needed to allow you to retain your independence for longer.
Adding a new bannister rail or even a stairlift can help with getting between floors. Consider a battery-powered lift to get you in and out of the bath or a walk-in shower with all-round handrails. You can also get hands-free toilets that you can operate while seated. A powered riser-recliner chair is another great boon to make living easier and more comfortable.
If there are steps leading up to your front door, these can become a challenge as you get older. Simply having a handrail added could give you that extra bit of necessary support. Alternatively, you may be able to have them replaced with a ramp that will allow you to get up to your door in a wheelchair.
An outside light that comes on automatically can make your home safer and more accessible for you. Just make sure that it’s positioned in a location where it won’t disturb your sleep if it comes on in the night. Consider your neighbours as well!
It can be helpful if trusted friends and family members can let themselves into your home without you having to get up and answer the door when they call. This is particularly important if there is an emergency, if you have an accident or become ill. One solution could be to give them their own spare key, but these can be lost or stolen. A key safe or door entry system with a special code could be a better alternative.
An intercom system will let you see who is at the door without having to get up and open it. You may be able to have a wireless entry phone that you can keep with you by your chair. This could even have a video screen linked to a closed-circuit camera so that you can see exactly who is at your door without getting up.
Motion sensor lights can be a great help for the elderly or infirm. These can be set to come on automatically when you enter a room, or even when you get up out of bed. It’s also a good idea to have plenty of lamp lighting and spare bulbs for when the bulb goes in your main light. This means that you have light sources you can easily reach to use while you’re waiting for help changing the bulb in a high overhead light.
For older people, it’s even more important to have effective smoke and carbon dioxide alarms. Make sure that these work in a way that’s effective for you. If you have problems with your hearing, for example, then a flashing light may be more practical than a siren sound. You should also make sure that there are no trailing wires or loose bits of carpet in your home that could become a trip hazard. As a general rule, it’s best to make sure everything is in working order as – to give one example – a broken bannister rail could present a serious danger.
Your home should be a place where you feel safe, comfortable and secure. If it feels as though where you live presents a number of challenges, you should probably look for ways to adjust it to better meet your needs. Doing so doesn’t need to cost the earth, and you may find that you can get help with making your home fit for purpose.