Home Additions for Aging Parents: Top 13 Features

May 23, 2022

As your parents age, you may notice their changing living needs, and you decide it’s time to help. But while it can be easy to recognize that their living situation isn’t working anymore, finding the right solution is quite difficult. 

Aging parents may not need to live in a senior care setting and just need help with mobility and accessibility. If they do need the help of assisted living, the costs can be unaffordable: A room in one of these settings costs $3,628 per month. Home additions for aging parents may be a better alternative that keeps Mom or Dad nearby while respecting their privacy. With these ideas for living spaces and home improvement projects, you’ll give your aging parents – and yourself – peace of mind. 

How can I help my parents age in place?

Aging in place can mean modifying your parents’ home to make it possible for them to live there safely. It can also mean taking them into your home while making home renovations that benefit older adults. In either case, this could involve renovating the bathroom to include walk-in showers or eliminating carpet and other obstacles that increase the risk of falling. 

When your parents or in-laws move in with you, there’s another option besides them moving directly into your home. That’s due to the rise of accessory dwelling units (ADUs). When you add an ADU to your property, you make multigenerational living a fit for everyone involved. That’s why ADUs are often affectionately referred to as “granny flats,” “in-law suites,” or “mother-in-law suites.” 

ADUs offer separate housing for older family members while keeping them close. Some ADUs come with home additions or home designs put into place with older adults in mind. Spacial’s studio and one-bedroom ADUs are great examples – their one-floor layouts and ADA-accessible entryways with no stairs are only the start. 

How do you prepare a house for older adults?

Close up of a senior woman's hand holding a younger woman's hand
Photo by Manny Becerra on Unsplash

To prepare a house for an older relative, ask them what kitchen and bathroom features would aid them in easy, independent living. These seemingly ordinary areas of the home can present unique challenges for people with mobility, balance, or memory limitations. When you take the time to examine the older adult’s safety and accessibility needs, you can make the transition process much easier.

13 home addition features to consider for an aging parent

If you’re unsure where to begin, there are a few common features that can help improve the quality of life for aging relatives.

1. Ground-level floor with no stairs

Your older relative’s home is best situated when the entire space exists on one level. This means no stairs are involved, which can accommodate for reduced mobility or relatives that get around with a wheelchair or walker. Or if your relative is coming to live in your two-story house, give them the ground floor. Alternatively, you can install ramps or lifts to make navigating stairs easier. 

2. Close-proximity housing

Adding a detached ADU (DADU) on your property is a great way to create close-proximity housing for older adults within steps from your front door. You’ll give aging relatives a separate bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, and living room right on your property. You’ll also give them a space with built-in accessibility features such as wider halls and ground-level floors with no stairs.

With the right ADU partner, your granny flat can be ready in a matter of months. Spacial can be that partner if you’re building a granny flat in the San Francisco Bay Area. We’ll handle all the heavy lifting that goes into installing an ADU – and when we’re craning your ADU into place, we mean that literally. Spacial is a simple and cost-effective way to handle the entire process of creating close-proximity housing for your aging parents. 

3. Large entryways 

When getting a space ready for aging parents to move into, a larger entryway is ideal. This is to allow space for wheelchairs to fit into the home. It’s just as ideal for a walker, an oxygen tank, or any other wheeled medical device that assists the person. Additionally, new construction is required to adhere to ADA accessibility requirements that ensure doorways are wide enough to accommodate mobility devices such as wheelchairs.

4. Safety devices for balance 

Installing grab bars in the bathroom near the toilet and tub can reduce the risk of an older adult falling. These safety features can give your older relatives more agency and privacy since they won’t need assistance to use the bathroom. Another great way to help with their independence is installing a walk-in tub or walk-in shower. This way, they don’t need to climb over a porcelain edge to take care of themselves.

5. Plenty of natural and artificial light 

A bedroom with a sliding glass door and plenty of natural light
Photo by Cat Han on Unsplash

Your parents’ home should have plenty of natural light and artificial lighting fixtures to account for vision impairments. Since it’s often common for older adults to need more light in their homes, a space with ample natural light is a great fit. It also saves energy during the day before your artificial lighting takes its place.  

6. Open floor plan

An open floor plan is a great way to stay on one level while increasing mobility and accessibility. With an open floor plan, there’s more space for wheelchairs, and the home is overall easier to navigate. Think about it – there are no interior walls, no columns, way fewer obstructions. This elimination of obstacles in the home is perfect for older individuals with mobility limitations. 

7. Anti-slip floors 

The bathroom requires extra attention when accommodating older adults. Since the floor can become wet and slippery, it poses a potential risk. To decrease the chances of an older adult falling in the bathroom, you can introduce precautions such as non-slip tiles to maximize grip. 

8. Step-free entrance

When you think about a one-level home for your parents, make sure you keep the entryway in mind too. Your parents should be able to enter the home without any steps or added barriers so they can come and go independently. This is especially important if one (or both) of your parents uses a mobility device like a walker or a wheelchair.

9. Lever door handles 

Door knobs can be difficult for people with arthritis, so install doors with lever handles to make getting around easier. The better your aging relative can get around on their own, the more likely they’ll feel comfortable in their living space. 

10. No carpets or rugs

Carpets and rugs can be a tripping hazard for aging parents, as these rough fabric surfaces can snag wheelchairs, walkers, and feet. This issue is far less prevalent with hardwood or tile flooring. Plus, carpetless flooring is easier to clean since you don’t have to lift the rugs to get underneath them. 

11. Electric stoves

A view of Spacials ADU kitchen
Photo by Spacial

If you have the option to give your older parents their own kitchen, opt for an electric stove over a gas stove. This choice is wise in cases where your aging parents are experiencing memory loss, as electric stoves can turn off on their own. An electric stove can also make burns less likely since there isn’t an open flame. You can also include automatic shut-off features for the stove to provide extra safety measures. 

12. Low-height bed frames

To make getting into bed and out of bed easier, opt for a lower bed frame. A lower bed frame is typically a bit gentler on an aging parent’s joints. It’s another way to give them more freedom of movement, which means more independence in their older years. 

13. Motion-detecting outdoor lights

For added ease in entering and exiting the home when it’s dark, include motion-detecting outdoor lighting. This extra lighting can help increase visibility and cut down on the chances of slips and falls. Your number-one priority for helping your parents age in place is making their space not just comfortable, but safe – outdoor lights check the latter box. For comfort, you have all kinds of other options as well – just scroll back up and go through this list.

Give your loved ones a safe space with Spacial

An exterior view of Spacials One Bedroom ADU
Photo by Spacial

When you choose to help your older relatives age in place, you're making an important decision based on you and your family’s needs. You can make the transition easier for everyone with the perfect ADU partner to take care of your construction needs. 

At Spacial, we understand the importance of cultivating livable spaces that prioritize comfort and safety. All Spacial homes feature wheelchair-friendly bathrooms, hallways, and doors since we know accessibility matters just as much as comfort. Contact Spacial today to learn how we can build a granny flat your aging parents are sure to love.