When we bought our “retirement” home in the boonies, we spent nearly a year on the hunt for the right house. The one thing Greg and I argued most about was whether to buy a one-story or two-story home. As much as I prefer the look of a two-story home, I insisted that we look only at one-story homes.
He argued with me every step of the way. After all, we were both in excellent health and we were as strong as oxes–with super mule stubbornness. There was no logical reason why we shouldn’t buy a two-story.
I stuck to my guns. I was looking to the future at a time when we might be on the decrepit side of age. Little did I know that injury would strike first. I lost the use of my right knee during our move. Two surgeries later, it’s still not sound, but I manage (like a 3-legged dog on his last day).
Then Greg’s knees went out. Every time he has to climb the attic stairs he thanks me for insisting on a one-story house.
The other thing I insisted on (I do seem to insist a lot, don’t I?) is no carpeting. We have low pile carpeting in the guest rooms, but that’s it. Everything else is either tile or wood flooring. Carpeting can be a hindrance to wheelchairs. Knock on wood, we’ll never know the delights of a wheelchair, but now we’re ready in case that happens.
A surprisingly helpful feature we’ve added to a couple of doors is changing the door knob to a lever knob. I have arthritis pretty badly in both hands. The lever is much easier for me to turn than a door knob. As time goes on, we’ll probably replace more knobs with levers. This has been one of our cleverest changes.
The one upgrade we haven’t done yet is installing those grab bars in the bathrooms. We don’t need them yet, but when we do install them I want something that doesn’t look so clinical. I like the look of this one (on the left). It doubles as a shelf and a grab bar. This way it won’t make me feel like such an old lady. 🙂
One recent purchase we made for the main bathroom was a teak shower bench. Teak is the perfect wood for outdoor use or wet conditions. It’s beautiful too.
Yes, you can buy one of those hospital-bred plastic benches, but teak is so much more elegant and can be used in more than just the shower. I have a built in bench in my shower, but the main bathroom is a big walk-in shower. A bench has been a welcome addition, especially when we wash dogs. I can wash them at their level without getting down on my knees.
Opt for more drawers in your kitchen. Standard kitchens seem to be fixated on cabinets, but for my money, I like drawers. They pull out and things are easy to find.
Most people can’t afford this kind of upgrade, but if you get the chance, ask for a bank of drawers if nothing else. It’s one of my favorite upgrades in my new kitchen. That, and the pull out cabinet Greg built for me. That pull out cabinet was a game-changer for me.
Another upgrade I recommend requires a professional. If your home doesn’t already have excellent lighting, get that done as soon as possible. We were lucky. The people who owned the house before us were husband and wife electrical engineers. They loved adding all sorts of electrical updates.
In the garden, I’m slowly changing out the walkways between the raised beds with thick rubber matting. Not only will this keep weeds at a minimum, but it’ll give us a smooth surface for us to walk on when we’re out in the garden. It’s a slow change because the rubber matting is expensive, so I only buy a short roll when the store is having a sale.
Around the house there are two things I keep within easy reach. One is a grab tool. I keep two. One is in my laundry room and the other in the garage. I’m short, so I use them a lot.
If you have grandparents nearby, do them a favor and buy them a magnifying glass for every room in their house. Believe me, they’ll appreciate it.
These last two items aren’t really about remodeling your home and garden but I found them to be indispensable as I get older.
It doesn’t matter if you’re 35 or 60, if you can update your house now, it’ll save you money in the long run. I didn’t realize I was thinking that far ahead when we bought this house eight years ago, but I can see now it’s been money well spent.
Can you think of anything else that might be a useful upgrade? And please don’t think upgrading your home is just for old people. These are invaluable when someone in your family is on the sick or injured list too. Plan ahead too for little children. Design your home design through the various stages of family life.
Anything that makes life easier and safer is always welcome.