Everyone likes to feel safe and comfortable when they are at home, so very few people prefer moving to a strange place, especially if they have lived in one place for most of their life. Feeling a deep attachment to our families is completely normal. So instead of pushing your elderly parents to move to a retirement home, why not offer them a more enjoyable solution? Consider investing in a home addition for your parent and allow aging in place.
If they live close to your home, you can also renovate the space they already live in and make it more accommodating. There are several ways you can make your parents’ home safer and more enjoyable. You just need to know where to start and what to focus on.
RENOVATIONS FOR AGING PARENTS
When you notice that your parents’ home becomes too dangerous for them, take action immediately! You want to avoid any potential risk that can harm them in any way. You also want to make their home more comfortable, so they can make the most out of their retirement and enjoy their time to the fullest.
Start by observing their behavior and then ask them whether there’s something in the home that bothers them. Usually, aging parents have a tough time with stairs, hard-to-reach areas, bathtubs, and slippery tiles. Some parents might have a harder time admitting they have difficulties in their space, but try to politely convince them that renovating is for their comfort and wellbeing.
Also, when building a home addition or renovating for your elderly parents, you must work with professionals with relevant experience. You want to hire somebody who truly understands what universal and senior-friendly design is. Another important thing is the consent of your parents. If you want to make them happy, involve them in the process as much as you can.
ACCOMMODATIONS FOR CHOOSING TO “AGE IN PLACE”
Every aging parent is unique and has different needs. However, there are specific home improvement projects that will be of help for every senior. Here is what designers include in almost every renovation for an aging parent:
As we grow old, stairs become more and more difficult to climb and descend. Plus, tons of things can wrong and the risk just isn’t worth it. Ideally, the home addition for your elderly parent should be on the ground floor. However, if your house has more stories, you can include a home elevator instead of stairs or install a comfortable stair chair.
Wider Doorways and Hallways
When designing a space for your elderly parent, you always need to think in advance and take every single scenario into consideration. It might be tough at first, but it will save you from a lot of stress in the future. For example, it’s best to opt for wheelchair-friendly design, even though your parents might not be in a wheelchair at the moment. One way to do this is by making hallways and doorways wider, with flush thresholds. Leave space for installing grab bars in the future, if necessary.
If you ask seniors what bothers them most in home design, a large percentage will probably say bathtubs and showers with tall edges. That’s why the best solution for the bathroom is a walk-in shower and tubs with slide-down walls. You should include grab bars in the bathroom as well.
Trends in In-Law Suite Design
Interior design for seniors is far from boring! It’s the perfect mix of aesthetics and clever solutions. For example, seniors usually need more light, so designers started increasing access to natural light. For the in-law suite, think of large bay windows or glass doors. You also want to boost artificial lighting as much as you can. Other popular trends for in-law suites are cozy reading nooks, indoor gardens, separate entrances, reusing vintage pieces, and decorating in transitional style (also known as modern vintage).
Open Concept Floorplan
Another important interior design trend for homes of aging parents is the open concept floor plan. Even though it is slowly losing popularity in family or bachelor homes, open floor plans are still trending in senior-friendly properties. This layout is far better for mobility, practicality, and maximizing space. Also, it makes visual inspection and communication easier, which will come in handy for you and your parents in the future.
Modified Kitchen Designs
Just like bathrooms, kitchens can be dangerous for seniors if they don’t have a clever design. So when redesigning the kitchen for your aging parents, you need to pay special attention to safety and practicality. The first thing you need to do is move everything as low as possible. Microwaves, heavy plates, portable appliances… everything should be easy to reach and ideally at below counter height. Other necessary accommodations for your parents’ new kitchen are:
- Easy-access pull-out pantries
- Countertops with round edges
- Shallow sinks that are close to the oven, stove, and fridge
- Sliding shelves
- Drawers instead of doors
- Enough space for wheelchairs
- Slip-resistant flooring
For those who are wondering what universal design is, it’s creating a product or an environment that is accessible and accommodating for everybody, including seniors and people with disabilities. Some crucial principles of Universal Design are:
- Fair use – a design that is useful and marketable for everybody
- Flexibility in use – a design that includes a vast range of preferences and abilities. For example, books with braille.
- Simple and intuitive use – a design that is easy to comprehend by everyone
- Tolerance for error – a design that eliminates or minimizes dangers and mistakes
- Low physical effort – a design that is easy and comfortable to use without the need of immense physical force
There are many other rules and principles of Universal Design. That’s why you need to consult expert contractors and designers who have experience in creating senior and disability-friendly spaces. It’s the best route you can take for building the perfect in-law suite for your elderly parents.
PAYING FOR YOUR IN-LAW SUITE ADDITION
Just like with every renovation project, building a senior-friendly space should be carefully planned. You need to set clear goals and a realistic budget. If not, you can end up with an unfinished project and a lot of debt. Frequent communication with experts is also necessary, as well as thorough research on construction materials, local building codes, and labor costs.
The first thing you need to do is determine a realistic budget. That way, you will get an idea on how much you can accommodate the space to fit your parents’ needs. The average price for building a suite for elderly parents will vary greatly depending on your needs and current situation. For example, if you convert a basement that already has a window well, kitchen, and bathroom into an in-law suite, you might finish the project with only $20,000 to $35,000. However, if you plan to build a cottage house from scratch and include home elevators or wheelchair racks, you can pay over $300,000.
After you set the budget, talk to your parents to learn what they need. If they are in a wheelchair, focus on disability-friendly design and every amenity that can ease their daily routines. Next, check out local labor and material cost to see which accommodations you can afford.
Get creative and try to find solutions that will satisfy your parents and allow you to stay on budget. For example, you can convert your garage into an in-law suite or separate the ground floor in two areas – one for you and the other for your parents. This way, you won’t need to build another space from the ground up, which will reduce the overall cost and minimize administrative procedures. Remember, if you want to avoid feeling confused or overwhelmed, you can always ask for help from expert contractors and designers.
BE CAREFUL IF CONSIDERING USING RETIREMENT FUNDS
Many families decide to dip into retirement funds to get extra finances for in-law suite renovations. This is a logical solution; however, some negative consequences can arise. First, before you dip into retirement funds, you need to be absolutely sure that the renovation will go as planned. If you are not 100% focused on the task, you might lose grip on the project. Setting a realistic budget and doing a thorough inspection of the property are the key to a successful home addition.
Also, be realistic when it comes to the amount of money your parents will need annually. If you use a large portion of their retirement fund, you might endanger their future livelihood. Besides this, the most dangerous scenario is getting an enormous tax bill. Many people aren’t aware of the fact that there is a tax for withdrawing from retirement funds. If your parent is under 59 ½ years old, expect an early withdrawal penalty of 10%, along with the regular income tax for the renovation.
Read all contracts carefully and learn about the process as much as you can. Knowing even minor details about retirement fund withdrawals will help you make a better decision for your family. For example, it’s useful to know that if you have previously withdrawn from the retirement fund, the amount you can borrow now is reduced. Also, if the home improvement project costs more than $50,000 you will need additional funding.
In summary, if you keep an open dialogue, plan carefully, and work with experts you will be able to provide the best solution for your parents.