Affordable but necessary modifications and improvements to make your home safer so you can live more independently
As we start to age, there comes a time when we need to make some adjustments, whether it be lifestyle, diet or, in this case, modifications or improvements around your home, to help make your home safer and more comfortable.
If your mobility has started to decrease with age, or you have someone in your home who requires a wheelchair or walker, it is important to make your home more accessible. These sorts of improvements may consist of a ramp, grab rails or something as simple as new door handles.
What are home modifications?
Home modifications are changes made to your home to help you or someone living in the home to move around more easily and comfortably. Before making these kinds of modifications it is worth speaking with an independent organisation, such as ConnectAbility, regarding possible funding options you may be entitled to.
What are some basic requirements for home accessibility?
There are some basic requirements for making your home accessible. While you may be able to make some of these small changes yourself, it may sometimes be necessary to employ a tradesman or accessibility specialist to make these modifications for you. Don’t worry though – with some expert advice and a little creativity, you can often make these changes without breaking the bank.
So, let’s look at some of the changes you may need to make around your home to improve freedom of movement and enable you or someone living with you to retain more independence.
Widening exterior doorways to allow for a wheelchair, walker, or mobility scooter can significantly increase the accessibility of your home and can make a huge difference to the ease with which you or someone living in the home can move in and around the home.
To meet the Australian Standard for wheelchair access, the minimum unobstructed opening width of a doorway is required to be at least 850mm. This means that all door handles and doorstops need to be clear of this space when the door is open. To enable a continuous path of travel and free movement, the Standard also requires a circulation space at every doorway, the size of which is determined by the type and size of the door.
Widening an exterior doorway will require removal of the door trim and excess wall to create a larger opening, while maintaining the structural integrity of the wall and doorway, then just replacing the door frame and installing a wider door.
The Standard also requires that the door be able to be easily opened, so consideration needs to be given to the force required to open the door and the placement height of the handle. If you are thinking about making changes to your external doorway, it may even be worthwhile considering the opening mechanism itself and installing an automated, electronic door that is accessed via an automatic sensor, button or, for security, a fingerprint scanner.
Changes of this nature need to be made by a building professional, and it is advisable to contact a reputable builder who is familiar with the Standard’s requirements for wheelchair accessibility and has experience in making home modifications of this kind.
If you need help or advice, ConnectAbility can help to connect you with an experienced local builder or home automation specialist.
Advancing age and certain disabilities and disease processes can compromise our grip strength, making many activities of daily living more difficult to accomplish independently. Statistics show that more than 15% of people aged 65 and over, and over 16% of people with a mild to moderate disability, suffer from arthritis and related disorders which can seriously affect a person’s ability to grasp and hold objects, such as door handles.
The Australian Standard for wheelchair accessibility also includes requirements for the placement of door handles.
- It is necessary for there to be a minimum gap of 60mm between the door handle and the door opening (i.e., the door frame), to allow room for the hand to grasp and turn the handle.
- It is necessary for the handle to be positioned at an appropriate height.
Simply installing a different type of handle – such as a lever style than can simply be pushed down, rather than a knob that must be gripped and turned – or adding an assisted or automated opening mechanism to your existing door, can make the task of opening the door much easier.
Installing grab rails throughout your home – such as in the toilet or bathroom – is a practical way to increase your safety and ease of mobility, and these are equally important additions to the entrances and exits of your home. Entry doors often have a step up or down and installing a grab rail on the door frame/trim or adjoining wall can make crossing the threshold that little bit safer.
If the door trim of your entryway is slightly raised you may also benefit from purchasing a threshold door entrance ramp, to provide a smoother transition between indoor and outdoor flooring surfaces. These ramps can help to minimise trip hazards and make the doorway far more accessible for users of wheelchairs, walkers and mobility scooters, without requiring any physical changes to your door.
If you currently need to negotiate a set of steps to enter and exit your home, you might wish to consider installing a ramp. There are several styles of ramp to choose from, so making this modification doesn’t necessarily need to compromise the aesthetic appeal of your home.
- Modular Ramps – Can be quick and easy to install and are often DIY friendly.
- Timber Ramps – Require the skills of a carpenter but can have a modern, visually-appealing design.
- Portable Ramps – Can be quickly and easily unrolled, making them a great option when visiting friends and family.
Whichever kind you choose, installing a ramp can greatly increase the accessibility of your home. Including additional features, such as guard rails, crutch stops, balusters and handrails, can create a safe entrance to your home to allow you to get on with your daily routine with ease.
Being cared for in your own home with ConnectAbility
Getting around is often a common concern for many older residents, ConnectAbility Australia has the resources to help with all aspects of your home life, from meal prep and personal care, to finding activities and reconnecting with your local community to personal shopping assistance. If you would like some advice on how ConnectAbility can help you and your family live more independently in their own home, please call us on 02 4962 1000 or complete our contact form to have a ConnectAbility representative contact you.