S is for Safety

This April’s blog posts will be highlighting some of the knowledge I gathered when I was certified as a Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES) and will explore different ways to determine if selling your home is the best course action as you age.

One of the quickest ways of assessing the need to move or choose to adapt your current home is to use the acronym S.A.F.E. This assessment is also great if you are assisting a relative or friend considering whether to age in place or to simplify and down size.

  • Safety
  • Access
  • Fits Needs
  • Ease of Use

broken stairs by ToFuPuNk
broken stairs by ToFuPuNk

Safety First: Are You Safe in Your Home?

Think about safety initially in terms of practical things, do the doors and locks work? Are your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors operational? Are you able to check all the areas of the house for problems, like potential water intrusion in the basement or pests in the garage? Do the lights on the walk-way leading to your house function properly? Are there tripping hazards outside like tree branches or cracks in the walkways, or inside like a loose throw rug or uneven tiles. Do you have a working phone line and security system for calls for help if you need it?

Making your home Age-in-Place Friendly can help you stay at home longer.

  1. Ensure all doors close and lock properly and you have the key. If there a neighbor you trust or a family member close by, give them a key incase yours gets mislaid.
  2. Test your smoke alarms and CO detectors on a twice-yearly schedule.   Identify emergency exits from the rooms you use the most and insure you can use them safely.
  3. Clear pathways of blocking landscaping, grind bulges in sidewalks flat, fill cracks and add or repair hand railings in helpful places.
  4. Add lighting on timers or motion detectors.
  5. Tack down throw rugs or get rid of them.
  6. Insure you have access to lines of communication where you need them – kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, living room. Make sure you have plenty of phone access, whether that is landlines or cell phones. Consider getting an emergency medical alert system. Post a list of helpful phone numbers on the refrigerator: neighbors, family and emergency numbers for yourself or anyone that may need to call for help on your behalf.

Some safety concerns may need to be addressed by a professional. Contractors can help you plan for more substantial changes. You can remodel your bathrooms for safer access with walk-in showers and hand-rails. Railings can be added or repaired. Steps and risers may be replaced with ramps.

One thing I discuss with my clients is that it may be a better financial option to renovate their existing home than to sell and move. A Universal Design contractor or architect can give you an estimate for proposed renovations and a Senior Real Estate Specialist like myself can help you understand the costs involved with selling or moving.

I strongly advise consulting with an architect or contractor who has utilized Universal Design.   Universal Design is a concept that stipulates that a design is functional for the widest segment of the population possible as well as being beautiful. If you equate “easier access” with “really ugly” you may be surprised to find there is plenty of “Design” in Universal Design. Here are a couple of fun examples of Universal Design in the home, an easy-access bathroom and practical and enchanting use of ramps.  And here is a little more on the Universal Design Concept if you are interested.

A Note: if you are of a retirement age and you are considering a bathroom or kitchen remodel now would be a great time to make sure blocking is put in the walls for potential future grab bars or install bars now.

Or maybe it IS time for a fresh start.

If you don’t want to be bothered by these details it may be a strong sign that you would be happier in a lower maintenance home. There are a range of options if you would like to simplify, a smaller house that is smaller or better configured to you needs, a condo can offer manageable living spaces on one level and are often close to services and community or maybe you would prefer an assisted living location that can remove some of the burden of cleaning and cooking. I have had a number of clients start looking for homes that have mother-in-law apartments within the home. I predict a rise of intergenerational living and a shortage of homes that allow for that to occur.

Next week I will be examining “A” for Access. Until then I would love to hear your safety success stories or answer any questions you might have regarding Downsizing, Aging in Place or Universal Design.

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