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AS you age, giving more consideration to safety factors in your home and satisfying your changing needs will help you live there longer, says the May 2014 issue of the Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Letter.

While an impressive entryway or a tiled bath may have inspired you to buy the home in the first place, this may become a problem when you can no longer open a heavy door or navigate slippery tile without support, adds the health letter.

“People don’t think about those things when they’re healthy. Sometimes that winds up forcing them out later on,” says geriatrician Dr. Suzanne Salamon, an instructor at Harvard Medical School.    

Before you find yourself struggling in a home that no longer serves you, consider following these five steps to adapt your home to your changing needs:

1. Make a budget - A budget in the thousands will be necessary for architectural changes such as widening doorways for wheelchairs - but this may be more appealing to you than selling your home and buying another one.

If you’re not in a position to spend thousands on renovation:

a) plenty of do-it-yourself fixes can help you age in place;

b) if you’re unable to make the changes yourself, hire a handyman to do the work - national referral service Angie’s List reports average handyman fees run $60 to $85 per hour, plus the cost of equipment that you’ll be installing - this will run in the hundreds of dollars only and can be done gradually.

2. Go for easier entry - Because older adults tend to lose dexterity in their hands, which can make it tough to turn a round doorknob - simple fix:

a) Install lever door handles that require only a push downward. Prices start at about $7 for an interior door handle to $50 for an exterior door handle;

b) If using keys is a challenge, purchase a lever handle with a push-button lock for about $100;

c) If you’re using a wheelchair or walker, you may need a small ramp to get over the threshold or lip of a doorway - these can be purchased at hardware stores for $100. Widening a doorway and adding long ramps to fit over stairs in and out of a home require a contractor.

3. Modify the kitchen -

a) Rearrange your pantry so that food and cooking utensils are on lower shelves - kitchen storage should be low when you’re older;

b) Invest in lightweight pots and pans to accommodate strength loss in your arms;

c) A contractor can lower countertops and cabinets for individuals who are in wheelchairs. “I have seen so many accidents where people try to reach for cans on high shelves, or stand on stools to reach something and fall,” says Dr. Salamon.

4. Alter bathrooms -

a) Nonstick mats and treads will help give you traction on slippery tile and bathtub surfaces - slick bathrooms are the cause of many falls and injuries;

b) Grab bars (about $25 each) are especially helpful if you have balance issues - install them in shower, tub and toilet areas;

c) A threshold ramp on a shower lip can make entry safer;

d) A contractor can replace a tub with a walk-in shower; and  

e) switch out a standard toilet for a taller one (making it easier to sit and stand up; or

f) adapt an existing toilet by installing an elevated seat for about $40;

g) Plastic shower seats are also helpful and range from $30 to $40.

5. Adapt bedrooms -

a) If your bedroom is located upstairs, think about moving to the first floor;

b) The bedroom should be located near a bathroom;

c) Install automatic nightlights in electrical outlets - since you may be spending more time in a darkened bedroom;

d) Install rocker switches for lights that are simple to push on and off;

e) Make sure there are handrails to help you keep your balance, if you do have to go upstairs; or

f) Have a contractor install a motorized lift, often called a stair glide - prices start at about $1,500, the health letter concludes.