Welcoming an aging parent into your home

Jeffrey Anderson | Improvement Center Columnist | May 29, 2015

When the 2010 census was taken, there were more than 40 million adults over the age of 65 living in the U.S., about 13 percent of the total population More than half of those were 70 or older. The government's Administration on Aging predicts quite a change in those numbers by 2030, which isn't all that far off. They estimate that by that time, there could be about 72.1 million older people living in the country, or about 19 percent of the total populace. But if you aren't going to be a part of this age bracket, should any of this be of interest? The answer might be yes if your parents suddenly become a part of your household.

Adding senior parents to your household

Your parents more than likely took care of you during the first few decades of your life. According to a recent survey conducted on behalf of ImprovementCenter.com, many respondents expect to be returning the favor as their parents grow older. Of those surveyed, a little over 4 percent already have an elderly family member as part of their household. While that may not seem like much, about 41 percent believe it likely that an elderly family member might someday move into their home and about 19 percent consider it very likely. So there is a pretty good chance that the home you thought would be so spacious once your children moved out might not remain that way very long. But space isn't the only concern -- aging parents could require some modifications to your home to make it a bit more senior-friendly. Depending on your parents' ages and health, it might not be time to break out the tools or start calling contractors just yet, but here are a few remodeling projects you might want to consider in the future:

  • Lever handlesets -- This is an easy one that most homeowners should be able to tackle without any outside help. If your home is like most that have been constructed in the last several decades, it probably has round door knobs. While they might look very stylish and you don't give them a moment's thought, their rounded shape that must be gripped to turn can be a real challenge for someone with arthritis. This is a condition that can strike people of any age, but is more prevalent in the elderly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that by 2030, there could be about 67 million people in the country with some form of the affliction. There is a very good chance that your parents might be among them. Lever handlesets only require downward pressure to open a door and can even be operated with just an elbow. They're available in numerous styles from companies such as Schlage, Kwikset, Baldwin, and others, and they can often be exchanged with your existing round units using only a screwdriver.
  • Walk-in tubs -- Arthritis and many other age related conditions can make getting in and out of a standard tub or shower not only challenging, but in some instances, a safety issue for an elderly parent. Installing a walk-in tub isn't quite as DIY-friendly as changing handlesets -- you'll probably want to get a contractor involved with at least the plumbing to ensure it gets done correctly. But many walk-in tubs can be installed in the same space as your conventional tub with very little repair work needed. Manufacturers such as American Standard, Jacuzzi, and many others offer numerous styles and sizes of walk-in tubs.
  • Stair-lifts -- If your home is more than one level, you're probably so used to going up and down the stairs that you don't even notice them any more. However, those same stairs might look like Mount Everest to an aging parent. Fortunately, a stair-lift can usually be installed that allows your parents to navigate just about any stairway easily and safely -- even those of the curved variety. Hiring a contractor to install your stair-lift is highly recommended for safety and warranty reasons, but with the aging population, finding a reputable company shouldn't be a problem.

These are just a few of the remodeling projects than can make your home more hospitable to an aging parent. There are many others that can range in complexity from changing a few bathroom fixtures and installing safety grab bars to converting a lower level to a separate living quarters. For more ideas, follow ImprovementCenter.com or consult with a local contractor.

About the Author

Jeffrey Anderson has a Degree in English from V.M.I., and served as an officer in the Marine Corps. He worked in Residential and Commercial construction management for 25 years before retiring to write full time. He spends his time writing, remodeling his old farmhouse, and in animal rescue.