Remodel Your Home For The Future You

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.

Greg recommends Brinks or Schlage door handles. He says they’re the most reliable brands he’s installed.

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.

The other thing which I keep in almost every room is a magnifying glass. I even keep one in the car for map reading.

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.

 

 

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18 Comments

  1. Make sure all the floors are even with each other so that Roomba thing will work. Our wood flooring is higher than our vinyl (surrounded on three sides), so having one of those things wouldn’t work so well (it’s get stuck on the vinyl and never go anywhere else!). I can’t see putting wood floor in my kitchen, though.

    • Stacy: We have one transition lip that the Roomba can’t reach, and that’s to a bathroom. I just shut the door there.

      re: kitchen
      My kitchen floor is wood. It gets the most traffic of any room so I keep runners there to lessen the impact.

  2. Good ideas all.

    We were both on board with only looking at one-story homes when we bought this place. I love two-story homes, too, but I don’t do stairs very well. So, our retirement home has exactly two steps – on the front porch to get in the front door. There’s a ramp for coming in through the garage – if the need ever arises and I can’t manage those two steps. Haven’t gone the grab bar route in the showers yet. I don’t remember carpet being that hard to navigate when I was in a wheelchair, but that was 23 years ago. Still, most of the house is either vinyl floor or low pile carpet. Everything else is pretty close to where it needs to be.

  3. BE: Good point. You’ve reminded me about accidents. You were young when you had your horrific accident. We should never forget that life is unpredictable. What we think we won’t need could become a necessity tomorrow. It could be from an accident and injury, or unexpected company like old people and babies.

    It’s better than being imprisoned in only one room of your house.

  4. I was so tired of going up and down stairs in our old town house! I love our one story house, and it feels like it’s a place we can live in for a long, long time.

    We had a grab bar put in the main bathroom’s tub – it matches the rest of the fixtures – but that one you showed with the shelf is a nice touch.

    • Madeline: That’s it, exactly! You want something that will grow with you. When i was in my 20s and 30s it was no big deal to race up and down the stairs, but now it’s an accident waiting to happen.

      re: grab bars
      I’ve been looking for elegant grab bars locally with no luck, so I was glad to see this one on Amazon. The nice looking ones are few and far between. I want my home to look homey and natural, not like an invalid lives there.

    • Mike: I keep seeing you as lord of the manor while poor Bernadette serfs away. 😀 But I imagine she has you in line nonetheless.

      re: wet room
      I don’t know. Our walk in shower is a huge shower room. You can get four people in there easily. As a matter of fact, Greg got himself into trouble when we were first looking at the house. He thought I was behind him when in fact it was the realtor. He nudged her and said, you know this is so big, we can invite another couple to shower with us.

      The look on his face must’ve been priceless when he realized it was the realtor. She had a belly laugh.

      In the states we do have something called a mud room which is more or less a side or back entry that’s tiled, so you can walk in and clean up without dragging mud through the rest of the house.

  5. We’ve got a two story house with a full basement. (Guess where the laundry hook up is.) Believe me, our next place will be a single story. We switched out a lot of carpet for wood floors already but not for wheelchairs (not yet) but because it’s so much easier to keep clean when furry family members are always shedding.

    • LInda: There was a time when I would kill for a basement, now it’s an inconvenience. 🙁

      You’re absolutely right about the keeping the floors fur-free. Much easier with wood or tile as opposed to carpet. Even if kept spotless, carpeting hangs on to dander and who knows what else. Much safer without.

  6. Hi Maria!
    Tried to leave a little comment via my phone, but not certain it went through.
    Wanted to say Hi and how much we are looking forward to meeting you at the Brighten Workshop on Sunday.
    Your blog is lovely!
    Jemma

    • Jemma: Sorry about the delay. I didn’t even realize there were comments in moderation. (Yours wasn’t the only one.) Oy! Usually WordPress tells me when a comment is waiting in the wings, but I got zilch. I’ll be sure to keep checking now.

      Welcome!

  7. We have a room over the garage that makes the house technically two-story, but we only use it for storage. With my lousy knee I can’t manage the stairs unless I go very slow, and I won’t carry anything that prevents me from using the banister.

    I have two revolving shelves (like big lazy susans) in my lower kitchen cabinets that helps me get out big pots and pans easier. To keep from jabbing myself when I reach into a drawer I keep all my knives in blocks and sharp or pointed cooking utensils standing blunt side up in a big revolving organizer thing.

    Lifting and lowering things is already an issue for me, so I’ve moved everything heavy from overhead shelving to lower spots. I use S hooks for shower curtains instead of closed clips so I don’t have to fight to get them down for washing.

    Converting to reachable lighting is something I want to do in the near future. I really don’t like standing on a ladder to change light bulbs now, and I can’t see me doing it safely as I get older. Eventually I hope to replace our two biggest ceiling lighting fixtures that we inherited with the house to overhead/inset floods that we can change with a basket rod.

    I’d also like to get rid of all the ageing carpeting and very slick floor tiles in this house (also inherited from the precious owners) and replace them with wood flooring. I really liked seeing the transformation of your floors; that was just gorgeous.

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