Whether you are staying put in the family home or moving to something new and different, Deborah Pierce, an architect and author of "The Accessible Home: Creating a House for all Ages and Abilities," offers some suggestions for making a home more retirement friendly. She points out that while some of these ideas might appear to be costly, making them part of your retirement planning could save you in the end.
Remodel the kitchen to fit how you live. As we age, standing on tile floors and working at countertops that are uncomfortably high could could discourage the cook. If you don't like your kitchen and you opt to go out for meals frequently, the cost of making the kitchen more older-cook friendly could be a bargain. Think about lowering at least some of the counters so you can sit while you prepare food. Install a two-drawer dishwasher that you can run more often without wasting water. Replace the refrigerator with a model that has the freezer at the bottom. Get rid of things such as ceiling lights and extra-tall cabinets that require you to stand on something to reach for a serving dish or change a bulb. Standing with your arms straight up is hazardous to anyone with a balance issue.
Ban shadows. Bright light, especially in entrance ways, mud rooms, kitchens, bathrooms and stairways, will help you avoid falling. Putting additional light anyplace where the flooring is uneven -- for instance, when you go from carpet to tile -- is also a good idea.
Reconsider doors. If you fall in the bathroom, a door that swings inward could trap you and prevent you from getting help. Widening doorways, installing pocket doors or removing doors altogether in places where you no longer need them will make your home more accessible and often more attractive, Pierce says.
Bigger bathrooms are better. "The more maneuvering space in the bathroom, the more likely it is that if you fall, you won't hit your head on the wall," Pierce says. If you can steal some space from a bedroom you no longer use much, that also might allow you to add a wheelchair-accessible stand-up shower -- and maybe, an oversize walk-in luxury whirlpool tub.
Install a lift. An elevator takes lots of space and can be pricey. Installing an alternative way to get upstairs will extend the time you can live independently. Consider chair lifts and platform lifts. Chair lifts require less space, but platform lifts can be safer and more versatile.
Create space for a caregiver. Privacy is important. Ideally, this space would have its own bath and space for a refrigerator, microwave and sink. Remodeling the basement could be the answer if there is a way to add an outside exit.