Is Your Home “Aging-Ready:” Aging in Place Checklist

Updated:

Retirement Living takes an unbiased approach to our reviews. We may earn money when you click a partner link. Learn More

An aging-ready home is defined as a home that meets your accessibility needs as you age. How does your humble abode stack up? In its current state, could you (or a loved one) safely move around and live in your home? 

Home accessibility modifications range from small DIY adjustments to large, more complex renovations. The improvements you’ll need to make depend on your current setup. Auditing your home now will ensure you can safely and comfortably age in place later.

The Need for “Aging-Ready Homes”

Today, 1 in 6 Americans (56 million people) are 65 years or older. By 2060, that number will increase to 1 in 4 Americans. Yet, a recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau says that millions of Americans live in homes that do not adequately accommodate an aging population. This poses a big problem for seniors opting out of assisted living and nursing facilities in exchange for more affordable options. 

Though common in 40% of U.S. homes, basic home accessibility modifications and aging-ready features such as step-free entryways and a first-floor bedroom/bathroom combination likely won’t sustain you long-term.

Creating “aging-ready homes” is a costly, but necessary step for seniors and caregivers who want to stay in their homes. Below, we created a comprehensive home checklist for aging-in-place.

From The Expert

“Life expectancy has improved, and today’s 65-year-old can expect to live at least another 20 years. But research shows that about 80% of households with older adults struggle with money, making aging-in-place modifications tough. Even if it feels overwhelming, it’s important to think about your future needs now. Start with small, affordable adjustments—like adding grab bars and carpet treads—and make improvements gradually. In my experience, if you wait until you really need to make several upgrades, you’ll feel like giving up and forgo making any vital modifications.”

Great for Joint Pain

Safe Step Logo
4.8 Stars

Safe Step

  • Made in Tennessee
  • Comprehensive quotes

Visit Site

Aging In Place Home Remodeling Checklist

Keep reading for a room-by-room breakdown of important home accessibility upgrades. Then, navigate to the top of this page to print the checklist so you can mark it up with your notes as needed.

Bathrooms

  • Add handrails and grab bars near toilets and tub/shower entrances for safety. 
  • Apply non-slip flooring, such as slip-resistant strips or mats, in wet areas for better grip
  • Install anti-scalding valves on water heaters or bathtub faucets to prevent scalding
  • Replace your tub or shower with a walk-in tub and shower combination with lower thresholds and added comfort and safety features
  • Place a sturdy fold-down bench or stand-alone chair in the shower for bathing
  • Swap out your fixed showerhead for an adjustable handheld shower nozzle with an on/off switch
  • Replace cabinet pulls and handles with D-shaped pulls and door levers
  • Adjust the height of your countertops to between 28 inches and 34 inches high and 22.375 inches deep to accommodate wheelchairs
  • Choose the proper-height toilet for your size (ADA requirements are at least 17 inches to 19 inches). If needed, boost the height of your current model with a toilet riser.

Expert Pro Tip

For the most comfortable and safe fit, find a toilet that is no greater than two inches higher than the length of your tibia or calf bones. In other words, measure from the back of your knee to the floor. If you measure 16 inches, for example, you’d buy a toilet that has a height between 16 inches and 18 inches.

Kitchen

  • Incorporate lower storage shelving for better access and to prevent falling items
  • Add slide-out drawers, pull-out shelving, or trays to existing cabinets for better access
  • Place your microwave at counter height or in the wall
  • Choose an electric or induction cooktop with safety features such as front controls, downdraft vents, and lights to indicate when the surface is hot 
  • Consider a side-by-side refrigerator and freezer instead of a top-bottom model
  • Replace cabinet pulls and handles with D-shaped pulls and door levers
  • Adjust the height of your countertops to between 28 inches and 34 inches high and 22.375 inches deep to accommodate wheelchairs
  • Create under-counter clearance near the sink

Doors and Hallways

  • Widen doorways and hallways to comfortably admit a walker, mobility scooter, or wheelchair to pass, at least 36 inches
  • Remove throw rugs that could become a fall hazard
  • Ensure all thresholds are flush or gently beveled for easy transition between rooms
  • Replace door knobs and handles with lever-type models
  • Install motion-sensor nighttime lighting and track lighting for better visibility

Flooring

  • Install low-pile carpet (less than one-half inch)to accommodate a wheelchair or walker. Also consider adding low-pile carpet over concrete, ceramic and marble floors to lessen falling injuries.
  • Secure any area rugs with double-faced tape or slip-resistant backing to eliminate tripping hazards 
  • Mark thresholds or uneven flooring with brightly-colored tape

Expert FYI

Cork flooring is a growing option in high fall risk areas. While it’s often affordable and more soft, the maintenance of it can be difficult if installed in high-traffic areas. Plus, pets can easily damage it.

Stairways

  • Add a handrail along both sides of the stairwell. Choose railings with a 1 ¼-inch to 2-inch thickness for easy gripping.
  • Install non-slip flooring on stair treads, like non-slip coatings or traction pads. Carpeted stairs also provide better grip when going barefoot.
  • Remove stair lips (the small ledge that extends over the stair riser) to avoid trips and falls
  • Consider alternatives like a stairlift or in-home elevator to safely navigate the stairs. Straight lifts can be installed in stairwells that are 28 inches wide, but curved stairlifts need at least 30 inches.

Exterior Entryways and Carports

  • Create an accessible path of travel to the home with no gravel or uneven surfaces
  • Add a sensor light to doorways
  • Widen all entries to a minimum of 36 inches
  • Move the doorbell to an accessible location, often lower
  • Ensure the front door is lightweight and easy to turn
  • Clear space in garages, carports, and boarding spaces to accommodate accessible vehicles and wheelchair lifts, at least five feet
  • Install ramps to doorways if needed
  • Secure handrails to all entryways and ramps

Floor Plan

  • Declutter all rooms and move furniture to make rooms easier to navigate, such as 5-foot by 5-foot clearances and turn space in living areas, kitchens, bedrooms, and bathrooms.
  • Clear walkways to create pathways that are 32 inches to 26 inches wide
  • Keep electrical cords out of pathways but not under rugs
  • Purchase a lift chair, if needed, with electronic controls for safe sitting and standing
  • Add device charging stations throughout the home, such as near your bed and couch
  • Lower the bed or add a step stool to make getting in and out of bed easier

Lighting

  • Install lower lighting controls that are accessible from a seated position
  • Consider using voice-activated smart switches
  • Add smart plugs, which allow smartphones and other devices to connect to your regular sockets

Electrical

  • Upgrade to GFCI outlets to protect against ground faults, overheating, and fires
  • Have a backup energy option, like backup batteries, solar devices, or a whole-home generator, to power necessary medical equipment during power outages
  • Update your main electrical and breaker boxes to accommodate your current and future power needs, if necessary. Many newer homes and some updated large homes have a 150- or 200-amp service panel.

Security

  • Maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors per the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Consider installing an alarm system with a line of communication to first responders and emergency personnel
  • Purchase a medical alert system that triggers a response during falls

Expert Pro Tip

Fire safety can be a big concern for those with mobility issues especially. Consider buying fire blankets and fire extinguishers to place around key areas of your home, such as the kitchen and bedrooms. Also, consider alternative emergency exits that work for your home layout, such as ladders or transport chairs.

Funding Aging-In-Place Renovations

Home renovations that require contractors can be expensive. The Department of Agriculture Rural Repair and Rehabilitation Grants provides low-interest loans or grants projects such as remodeling a bathroom for wheelchair access, installing walk-in tubs, building wheelchair ramps, or widening doorways and hallways. 

Veteran seniors may be eligible for programs and grants from SAH, SHA and HISA. You may also be eligible for an HCBS waiver through Medicaid as well.

A certified aging-in-place specialist can help you find ways to advocate for more funding in your area. For example, several states like California, Colorado, and Massachusetts are developing Multisector Plans for Aging that provide and cover a range of services needed for older adults, people with disabilities, and family caregivers.

Accessibility professionals can also identify disease-specific organizations that offer funding to support the aging-in-place plans for those with spinal cord injuries, dementia, multiple sclerosis, and more.

Advertising Disclosure

We may earn money from our partners when you click a link, complete a form or call a phone number.

We believe everyone deserves to make thoughtful, informed purchase decisions. As a result, we provide our buyers guides and local guides free for consumers. We may receive compensation from our partners. However, Retirement Living independently researches companies, and the compensation we receive does not affect the analysis of our staff. Retirement Living will not include companies on our guides that do not meet our quality standards. The compensation we receive from our partners may impact how and where companies appear on our site, including the order in which they appear. As an Amazon Associate Retirement Living earns from qualifying purchases.

Retirement Living independently researches companies, and we use editorial discretion to award companies with special recognition (i.e. Great Value) based on our staff’s judgment. We do this to help you identify companies that will meet your specific buying needs, and we do not receive compensation for these designations.

Get Insider Access

Get special offers, advice and tips from Retirement Living delivered to your inbox.

Get Insider Access

Get special offers, advice and tips from Retirement Living delivered to your inbox.