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NEIGHBORHOOD OF THE WEEK: Homes for growing old

by TYLER WILSON/Special to The Press
| March 6, 2022 1:00 AM

Here’s a harsh reality: The older we get, the more things become dangerous. Slipping in the shower, stumbling over a step or reaching for something on a tall shelf can lead to serious injury, no matter your age, but it’s an added concern as we all tack on the years.

Above all else, a home for older residents needs to be as safe and accommodating as possible. If you’re currently in the market for a home after retirement, or even if you’re looking at a “forever” home, there are safety considerations to weigh alongside location, square footage, etc.

Even if a home isn’t in ideal “aging form” yet, many steps can be taken to make it a better dwelling for older residents.

Single level or a game plan for stairs

The most obvious consideration is simple navigation. It’s one thing to be in the market for a rancher-style property, but pay attention to even the slightest elevation shifts — from entry steps to pathways connecting decks, the garage and/or outdoor spaces.

A flight of stairs isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker. Make sure there are secure handrails, preferably on both sides, and consider your living logistics should a short-term injury occur (is there a bed on the main level?). Heck, you can even see if one of those cool chair lifts is feasible for the home.

Easy access everywhere

Even something as simple as round doorknobs can be an issue for an older resident. Fortunately, an existing property can be modified with more functional fixtures with relative ease. That means lever-style door knobs, easy on/off faucets, windows, lightswitches, etc. and, potentially, an upgrade to “smart” home management in which a resident can control lights, blinds, thermostat and more with a smart speaker, phone app or (insert whatever highfalutin new technology that was introduced yesterday).

Bright lights and wide open spaces

Nobody wants to think about using a walker, cane or wheelchair as they get older, but it’s certainly likely the longer we all manage to cheat death. So consider homes with doorways and hallways wide enough to fit these moving devices. Open floor plans certainly help, but it’s also about avoiding the use of bulky furniture and non-functional-but-space-occupying decor.

In that same mindset, consider a home with plenty of lighting, as darkness cannot only lead to a Sith Lord, but it can also lead to potential falls and accidents. Consider lighting in atypical places too, like in closets, pantries and cabinets to ensure you can see all the cool (but functional) stuff you’ve acquired over the years.

Easy open shelving and storage

Utilize modern and functional design to bring your tools to you… that includes shallower shelves, cabinets with rollout shelves and fixtures that are easy to open and close. Look for shelving and storage that can be more easily accessed without straining, bending over or needing to use a stepstool.

Get a grip

Any place you might need assistance can benefit from a sturdily secured handle, from next to toilets and inside showers and bathtubs, to outdoor spaces or near steps. The bathroom is probably your most significant area in need of remodel (for a step-in bath/shower, etc.) so consider those elements when looking at long-term home needs and budgeting.

Low-maintenance outside

Consider homes with smaller yards, or perhaps even a community that includes landscaping as a perk of HOA dues (also look at those rules to make sure you’re not signing up for a neighborhood that will penalize you for every wayward dandelion). If you do want an outdoor space to manage, at least consider the possibility of budgeting for future assistance via a local landscaping company, or you can always hire that brooding-but-otherwise-friendly teenager who lives across the street.

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Let us know about more story ideas, standout neighborhoods and developments that we may feature in an upcoming Neighborhood of the Week. Contact Tyler Wilson at twilson@cdapress.com.

Real Estate Agents, take advantage of Neighborhood of the Week by sending in your suggestions for featured areas, including sites outside the normal confines of Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and Hayden.

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Photo courtesy of SHUTTERSTOCK INC.