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Independent Living Checklists

Posted July 8, 2013

For many older adults, independent living—in their own houses or apartments—is an important factor in the quality of their lives.

If you are thinking about a modifying a home to increase independent living options, whether it’s your home or someone else’s, you may be surprised to learn that some independent living modifications cost only the time it takes to complete them, and most are in the $150 to $2000 range.

Whether your budget is limited or unlimited, it’s important to determine which modifications would best serve the person or people who will be living in the home. Everyone’s needs and lifestyle are different, and will dictate which modifications can provide the most usability for your budget. Here’s a basic checklist of home safety and comfort issues from the U.S. Administration on Aging. This is a good place to start when you’re thinking about modifying a home for independent living.

Independent Living Checklist: Kitchens & Bathrooms

  • Are cabinet doorknobs easy to use?
  • Are faucets easy to use?
  • Are there grab bars where needed?
  • Is the kitchen counter height and depth comfortable?
  • Is there a place to sit down while working?
  • Is it easy to get in and out of the bathtub?
  • Is the water temperature regulated to prevent scalding or burning
  • Are all appliances and utensils conveniently and safely located?

Independent Living Checklist: Home Appliances

  • Can the oven and refrigerator be opened easily?
  • Are stove controls easy to use and clearly marked?
  • Would someone benefit from having convenience items, for instance, a handheld showerhead, garbage disposal, or trash compactor?

Independent Living Checklist: Closets and Storage

  • Are closets and storage areas conveniently located?
  • Are closet shelves too high?
  • Can items in the closet be reached easily?
  • Is there enough storage space? If not, where could more storage space be located?
  • Are the home dwellers able to make maximum use of available storage space? Would closet shelf systems or storage bins increase storage space? How could the closets be made more efficient?

Independent Living Checklist: Doors and Windows

  • Are your doors and windows easy to open and close?
  • Are your door locks sturdy and easy to operate?
  • Are your doors wide enough to accommodate a walker or wheelchair?
  • Do your doors have peepholes or viewing panels? If so, are they set at the correct height for you to use?
  • Is there a step up or down at the entrance to your home? If so, is the door threshold too high or low for you to get in or out easily?
  • Is there enough space for you to move around while opening or closing your doors?

Independent Living Checklist: Driveway and Garage

  • Does your garage door have an automatic opener?
  • Is your parking space always available?
  • Is your parking space close to the entrance of your home?

Independent Living Checklist: Electrical Outlets, Switches and Safety Devices

  • Are light or power switches easy to turn on and off?
  • Are electrical outlets easy to reach?
  • Are the electrical outlets properly grounded to prevent shocks?
  • Are your extension cords in good condition?
  • Can you hear the doorbell in every part of the house?
  • Do you have smoke detectors throughout your home?
  • Do you have an alarm system?
  • Is the telephone readily available for emergencies
  • Would you benefit from having an assistive device to make it easier to hear and talk on the telephone?

Independent Living Checklist: Floors

  • Are all of the floors in the home on the same level?
  • Are steps or changes in floor height marked so they can be easily seen?
  • Are all floor surfaces safe and covered with non-slip or non-skid materials?
  • Are there any rugs or doormats that could slip, or trip someone?

Independent Living Checklist: Hallways, Steps and Stairways

  • Are hallways and stairs in good condition?
  • Do all hallways and stairs have smooth, safe surfaces?
  • Do stairs have steps that are big enough for your whole foot?
  • Are there handrails on both sides of the stairway?
  • Are stair rails wide enough to grasp them securely?
  • Would someone benefit from building a ramp to replace the stairs or steps leading inside or outside of the home?

Independent Living Checklist: Home Lighting and Ventilation

  • Are there night-lights where they are needed?
  • Is the lighting in each room sufficient for the use of the room?
  • Is the lighting bright enough to ensure safety?
  • Is each room well ventilated with good air circulation?

By modifying a home to increase comfort and safety, you can make it possible for someone (maybe yourself) to enjoy independent living for years to come. The answers to these questions can give you a place to start.