Adapting your home to the requirements of old age is an exciting topic, but one that we nevertheless like to shirk away from as long as possible. It may help to change one's perspective a little in order to face the challenge with a little more cheer: It's not a matter of putting your ageing and the possible difficulties associated with it in the foreground, but rather of respecting your desire to maintain your independence and quality of life. In order to then, with the right support, be able to make it a reality in the best possible way!
Here are some practical tips to help you get started with the topic of "comfortable living in old age".
The terms "senior-friendly" or "elderly-friendly" in the context of old-age living can refer to many aspects of daily life. With regard to residential property, they refer to houses or apartments whose furnishings, floor plan and dimensions are specifically tailored to the special needs of the elderly.
The aim is to enable you as a senior citizen to live independently in your familiar and cherished surroundings for as long as possible. Ideally even if you require assistance, which can then be obtained on site within your own four walls.
When implementing renovation measures geared towards the needs of senior citizens, the priority is to identify potential sources of accidents, to remove them and to make all everyday activities easier. In order to be able to cope at home even with health impairments, the individual areas of the home should be equipped with certain features.
Level access is a top priority; stairs are to be avoided wherever possible. To make walking safe, non-slip flooring should be used throughout the home, not just in sanitary areas. Retailers offer advice and a wide range of products. Suitable types of flooring are categorised into so-called slip resistance classes, which are indicated on the product's data sheets.
Our tip: Wheelchair accessibility should also be taken into account, because the more slip-resistant the surface, the more rolling resistance it will have. The removal of thresholds and carpet edges throughout the living area is another aspect of flooring that needs to be addressed. This not only ensures accessibility, but also reduces the risk of falling due to tripping hazards.
Sufficient space and accessibility are the main factors for maintaining independence. This applies to doors and passageways, the minimum width of which should be 90 cm, the height of cupboards that need to be reached and all switches and fittings.
In the bathroom, level access to a shower with seating, the movement radius in front of the washbasin (recommended: 120x120cm) and the clearance underneath are important criteria. Sufficiently sturdy handles on the walls should be standard.
In the bedroom, a free-standing bed makes it easier to get up, and accessibility from both sides improves the possibilities for at-home care.
Freedom plays a major role in the quality of life - and not only in old age. The freedom to shape one's life in a self-determined way and to do things and have experiences that open the heart and bring joy.
If you love cooking, converting your kitchen to make it more senior-friendly will allow you to pursue this passion for a long time to come. Or do you love spending time in your garden and enjoying the beauty of nature? Then ensure safe accessibility and cosy seating outside early on so that you don't have to miss out on this.
The surroundings also matter. Ideally, the location and the surrounding area should be within easy reach of all shops for daily needs, as well as medical practices and pharmacies. A connection to local public transport may also be required.
There is no one-size-fits-all estimate for how much it will cost to renovate a home to make it more senior-friendly. Depending on the effort involved, it can easily range from several thousand to tens of thousands of euros.
Financial support for property owners and landlords willing to renovate is available in the form of subsidies and loans from the Kreditbank für Wiederaufbau (KfW), which can approve funds earmarked for specific purposes. Nursing care insurance funds can also pay out up to 4000 euros per home improvement measure. When planning, the building fabric and the spatial dimensions in relation to the feasibility of the individual steps must be taken into account.
It is therefore important to determine the scope of the necessary work in advance, ideally with the help of specialist consultants and experts, so that a realistic cost framework can then be established. Should implementation not prove to be a viable option, there is of course the possibility of selling the property and moving to a more suitable property.
Another option is a life annuity. This grants lifelong residential rights and guarantees a monthly life annuity, which can be used to top up the renovation budget.
If you are interested in delving deeper into the topic, we would recommend the service portal of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth on the web. It provides extensive information on the topic and a helpful checklist.