Popular Home Modifications for Seniors

How to Make Your Home More Senior-Friendly

Three in four older adults would prefer to age in their home1 than move to an assisted living community. We understand why remaining in your home and community sounds great; it allows you to maintain meaningful relationships. Plus, you can avoid the daunting task of downsizing!

Aging in place is ideal for many seniors, but you'll want to make modifications to your home that keep you safe as your health and mobility change. Millions of older adults experience a fall each year,2 but home modifications can prevent falls, which will ultimately keep you independent for longer.

We've rounded up some popular home modifications for older adults to help you determine what adjustments you may need to make as you plan to safely age in place.

Overall Home Modifications for Seniors

Overall Home Modifications

Home Security Systems

  • Cost: $15-$50 a month, plus initial equipment fees
  • Installation: Professional or DIY
  • Type of Modification: Removable

If you're living alone, or just want some extra security, a home security system can provide protection against intruders. The 24/7 security monitoring offers peace of mind and is professionally installed. Plus, some systems offer bundles that include features similar to a medical alert system for seniors interested in a medical response device.

FYI: In the market for a home security system? View our list of the best home security systems for seniors.

Stair Lifts

  • Cost: $2,000-$5,000
  • Installation: Professional
  • Type of Modification: Semi-permanent

As your mobility changes, stairs may present a challenge. For seniors with multilevel homes, a stair lift may be a necessary home modification to prevent falls. Using a motorized rail system, a stair lift moves a chair up and down a staircase. Older adults can securely sit in the chair to move between various levels of the home without climbing any steps. These systems are pricey, costing several thousand dollars. They are also a pretty permanent installation, done by a professional, so make sure this modification is really something you will use before pulling the trigger.

Widen Doorways

  • Cost: $300-$2,500 per doorway
  • Installation: Professional
  • Type of Modification: Semipermanent

For seniors who use a wheelchair, walker, or motorized scooter, narrow doorways throughout the home pose a problem. Widening a doorway may seem extreme, but if you really plan to live in your home for as long as possible, it is essential to continue safely utilizing your home. A contractor will need to be hired for this home modification. In addition to adjusting the door frames, light switches often need to be relocated and rewired, so make sure you consider that in the cost.

Did You Know: The width of standard doorways is 23-27 inches. To accommodate wheelchairs, doorways should be at least 32 inches wide.

Bathroom Modifications for Seniors

Bathroom Modifications

Walk-In Tubs

  • Cost: $1,500-$20,000
  • Installation: Professional
  • Type of Modification: Permanent

A warm bath can be therapeutic for aging joints, but getting in and out of a traditional bathtub could do more harm than good, since it’s easy to slip and fall. A walk-in tub is perfect for older adults who want all the benefits of a bathtub, minus the falling hazard.

Walk-in tubs are a permanent commitment, requiring professional installation and possibly new plumbing and a water heater. You'll definitely want to do your research before making a purchase! We've already done a lot of the research for you with our list of best walk-in tubs for seniors.

Curbless Shower

  • Cost: $2,500-$12,000
  • Installation: Professional
  • Type of Modification: Permanent

For seniors who prefer a shower, installing a curbless shower (sometimes called zero-entry shower) is a good idea. This eliminates the need to step into a shower, since curbless showers are flush with the floor. Most come with a chair and adjustable shower head for comfortable bathing. This modification is also accessible for seniors who use a wheelchair.

Grab Bars and Rails

  • Cost: $20-$150 per bar/rail
  • Installation: Self-install
  • Type of Modification: Removable

Installing grab bars and rails can be an inexpensive and less-permanent way to prevent falls in your bathroom. If you're handy, you can install them yourself or commission a friend or family member to place them for you. They can be installed anywhere you'd like extra support, but they are commonly placed inside or outside the shower, inside the tub, and on the sides of the toilet. They should be drilled into studs when possible for maximum stability.

Bedroom Modifications for Seniors

Bedroom Modifications

Bed Rails

  • Cost: $50-$150
  • Installation: Self-install
  • Type of Modification: Removable

Getting out of bed can be a challenge for seniors who experience stiffness and decreased mobility in the mornings. A bed rail not only prevents falling out of bed during the night, but it can make getting in and out of the bed much easier. There are many different types of bed rails, configured to fit a variety of bed types. Most can be self-installed and easily removed.

Low Bed

  • Cost: $500-$4,000 for a new mattress or bed frame
  • Installation: Self-Install
  • Type of Modification: Semipermanent

Getting in and out of bed can be difficult for seniors whose beds are too high. Tall beds can also increase the risk of falling for older adults who have limited mobility and decreased balance. The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund suggests beds be 20-23 inches from the floor to the top of the mattress.3 To lower your bed, consider purchasing a new mattress or a lower-profile bed frame.

Lever Door Handles

  • Cost: $12-$60 per handle
  • Installation: Self-install
  • Type of Modification: Semipermanent

Twisting door knobs may seem like a simple task, but for older adults who have arthritis, it can be painful. Installing lever door handles in the bedroom, and throughout the home, is a quick and inexpensive way to make doors accessible to older adults with decreasing dexterity and those who use a walker. Lever door handles are much easier to use, and we think they look pretty, too!

How to Pay for Home Modifications for Seniors

We agree, some of these home modifications can cost the big bucks! But, consider that the cost of living in an assisted living community hovers at around $48,000 a year.4 In comparison, these modifications aren't too bad! Regardless, you may be wondering how you can afford these home enhancements. Well, you have a few options, including:

  • Medicare Part B may provide some financial assistance and pay for modifications that qualify as durable medical equipment.
  • Medicare Advantage plans vary by state, so check and see if your plan provides assistance with paying for home modifications.
  • The Veterans Administration may provide financial assistance with home modifications for eligible veterans.
  • Local philanthropic organizations often volunteer their time and resources to make home improvements and modifications for seniors to live safely in their homes. Contact your local organizations to see if you qualify.
Written By

Morgan Redding

Writer and Editor

Morgan has been writing about the senior living industry for the past five years. In addition to over 400 hours of research on topics like medical alert systems, health insurance, and technology for older adults, she also brings her previous experience working… Learn More About Morgan Redding

Citations
  1. AARP. (2018). Most Retirees Prefer to Stay Put.

  2. CDC. (2021). Home and Recreational Safety.

  3. DREDF. (2021). Beds in Accessible Guest Rooms and Sleeping Rooms.

  4. AHCA/NCAL. (2021). Facts & Figures.