Renovating and Maintaining

Parent Moving In? Make Sure Your Home’s Ready

Over the next 20-40 years, seniors will represent roughly 25 percent of the population.1 This demographic shift brings financial and emotional challenges for today’s families, especially when it comes to living situations. In fact, 44 percent of new home shoppers have room for aging parents on their list of considerations.2

Having a parent move in allows for more quality time together and provides peace of mind. Plus, this option is often less costly than a nursing home ($80,000 per year, on average) or an assisted living residence (roughly $43,000).3

But there are many considerations to ensure your home will be a comfortable (and safe) place for everyone living there. The good news is that some of these fixes are small, quick and easy or even free. Depending on your loved ones’ needs, several more complex and pricier renovations may be required, so it’s important to start thinking about these (and saving accordingly) as soon as possible.

Grandfather and grandson playing outside

1. Outdoors and Entryway 

Fresh air is the best medicine. In fact, people who venture outside regularly are less likely to have health problems like chronic pain or sleep disorders and are more likely to stay active throughout their life.3 To make sure the outside (and entryways) are welcoming to the seniors in your home:

  • Quick and easy fixes:
    • Determine a place for mail, toys and other daily clutter to reduce trip hazards in your entryways 
    • Install motion-sensor lights along sidewalks and driveways
  • More complex renovations:
    • Ensure doorways are at least 32 inches wide (preferably 36 inches) for comfort and to accommodate wheelchairs4
    • Make sure driveways and sidewalks are smooth
    • Install handrails on stairs leading to home (or convert to a wheelchair-accessible ramp)

2. Bathrooms

Of all senior falls that happen at home, 80 percent occur in the bathroom, given the precarious combination of slick surfaces and middle-of-the-night visits.5 Take the right precautions to make this room safer: 

  • Quick and Easy Fixes:
    • Lower your water heater’s maximum temperature to 120 degrees
    • Install grab bars in the tub and near the toilet
    • Add non-skid mats to the tub and textured strips along tile floors
    • Consider buying a waterproof chair for use in the shower 
  • More Complex Renovations:
    • Install a built-in seat for the shower or convert to a walk-in tub
Grandmother reading to granddaughter on a tablet

3. Bedrooms

Sleep disorders are relatively common among seniors. While older adults still need 7-9 hours of sleep, they may wake up earlier in the morning, have trouble drifting off at night or have more frequent insomnia.6 It’s important to provide a private, peaceful and safe place for them to turn in every evening:

  • Quick and easy fixes:
    • Place a landline phone (or a cell phone charger) by the bed for close access during the middle of the night
    • Purchase flashlights (and extra batteries!) for the nightstands and add a nightlight to the room
    • Equip the room with “reacher” tools to avoid stepladder use or unnecessary trips out of bed
    • Remove throw rugs (or secure them firmly) and any other potential trip hazards
  • More complex renovations:
    • Create a master suite on the ground floor to eliminate concerns over stairs 

4. Stairwells

Each year, one in three Americans 65 and older suffers a fall that leads to moderate or severe injuries.7 If regular staircase use is necessary, then make sure they are as safe as possible:

  • Quick and easy fixes:
    • Install light switches at the top and bottom of each staircase
    • Install railings on both sides (1-1/2 inch in diameter, minimum) that run the length of the stairs
    • Install treads and contrast strips on non-carpeted flooring
  • More complex renovations:
    • Replace stairs with wheelchair-accessible ramps or install electronic chairlifts
Grandmother, mother and granddaughter laughing in kitchen

5. The Kitchen

You may enjoy lots of dinner-prep help if your parent loves to cook. But be mindful that our reflexes can slow slightly as we age, making kitchen safety even more critical. Here are some tips that will allow you and your loved ones to continue using the kitchen safely and effectively:

  • Quick and easy fixes:
    • Transfer all frequently used items to easy-to-reach shelves
    • Clearly mark on and off positions on major appliances
    • Replace cabinet doorknobs with handles, which are easier to open  
    • Purchase ergonomically designed utensils and lightweight cookware
  • More complex renovations:
    • Lower the height of countertops
    • Replace stoves and ovens with systems that have an automatic shut-off feature

6. Feeling at home

In addition to being safe, your loved one should also feel comfortable. Try to ensure as much privacy as possible and furnish their space with their own belongings. And if they have a furry friend, make arrangements so they are comfortable too. 

Having a parent move in is a major lifestyle shift for everyone—but it can also be rewarding. If you have the time to plan ahead—and financially prepare for the impact on your home—you can reduce move-in day hassles and focus on your family’s new chapter.

Looking to make home improvements before welcoming a family member?

Discover how a home improvement loan could help.

1 “Facts for Features: Older Americans Month,” April 10, 2017, United States Census Bureau
2 “Make finances in ‘multi-gen’ household a family affair," July 20, 2016, CNBC
3 “Encouraging a Senior with Limited Mobility to Get Outside,” July 6, 2017, 
4 “10 Factors to Consider Before Moving Elderly Parents In,” November 2017,
5 “10 Bathroom Safety Tips for Older Adults,” Oct. 19, 2017, The National Institute on Aging via HomeFree Home Modification
6 “Sleep Disorders in Older Adults,” July 8, 2016, Healthline Media
7 “Home Accident Statistics: Is Your Home as Safe as You Think?” May 9, 2017, A Secure Life

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