15 Home Improvements To Consider Doing Before You Retire

Make your home retirement-ready with these 15 transformative upgrades.

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Updated May 28, 2024
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Moving to a new house may not be ideal for many people when retirement approaches. You may like your community, being close to the areas you know well, and your home itself.

So why not make your home more retirement-friendly? Making specific improvements to your existing house now could help create a safer home for you later in life.

If the updates to your home are substantial, you may need to tap into a new source of income. Or you can take out a home equity loan or line of credit (interest on these types of loans is tax deductible, too.)

Consider these 15 updates to your home that can help you save money in retirement.

Do you dream of retiring early? Take this quiz to see if it's possible.

Install grab bars in bathrooms

amazing studio/Adobe old woman patient uses toilet handle

When retirement is around the corner, investing in bathroom grab bars is one of the most important updates you can make. Even if you’re feeling strong and healthy now, you may need them soon.

Plus, having a bit of extra pull never hurts to help you move around and avoid slips and falls in the shower or bathtub.

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Install seat-height toilets

torsakarin/Adobe automatic toilet in a clean white bathroom

The next time you need to replace the toilet in your home, replace it with a seat-height toilet instead. Traditional types tend to be lower to the ground and may not be as easy to get up and down from as you age.

Seat-height toilets require less effort, and that often means fewer risks of falls or struggling to stand.

Add a ramp to the front door

lawcain/Adobe building on incline with wheelchair access

No-step entryways are a critical consideration for many people as they age. However, even one or two steps to get in the door can be challenging when you don’t have a railing to help support you.

Eliminating or minimizing the number of steps you have to climb to get into and out of your home is an easy way to reduce fall risks.

If you make this modification, make sure the ramp meets the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements of having no more than a five-degree incline or a 1:12 slope for any ramp you add.

Consider one-floor living

fizkes/Adobe middle aged entrepreneur woman talking on cellphone

If it’s possible to modify your home to allow you to live on a single floor, you may be able to live in it for the rest of your life. Having a primary bedroom, bathroom, laundry, kitchen, and living room on one floor will help you navigate daily tasks.

You may be able to convert a first-floor office or dining room into a bedroom, for example. Even if you don’t use it all of the time, not having to climb up the stairs after a long day can be a nice improvement.

Lever-style handles

photosvideos/Adobe old man opening the door

Dexterity is a common concern for people as they age, especially those prone to arthritis. The joints in the fingers and hands stiffen, making it hard to grip and turn a traditional doorknob.

However, with the investment in a lever-style handle on the doors in your home, opening a door is far more manageable. 

For those battling cognitive decline, dexterity issues when opening a door can be very frustrating. They may even lead to a person not eating or being able to access the bathroom.

Lowering cabinets or adjusting kitchen organization

klavdiyav/Adobe senior woman drinking water from glass while cooking

If you plan to remodel your kitchen, avoid wasting money on transforming your home into a space that doesn’t meet your specific needs. For example, as you get older, you’ll appreciate having lower and easier cabinets to open and close.

If you don’t plan to remodel, consider reorganizing your kitchen so that the most essential plates, cups, and other items are within easy reach. Using a step stool may be hazardous, no matter your age.

Widen doorways and hallways

KOTO/Adobe older woman smiling in doorway

While you may not foresee having to use a wheelchair, you may someday have a short-term rehab at home, such as after knee surgery. Wider doorways and pathways in the home will ensure they're large enough for easy movement around the house.

You’ll find that these more comprehensive changes can help support you as your physical needs change, even if they're more extensive right now.

Add more lighting to the home

Blue Planet Studio/Adobe senior woman reading books in living room

Improving the lighting throughout the home is a big plus. Adding nightlights and other lower-to-the-ground light sources increases your ability to see and may help you navigate better when you get up in the middle of the night.

Consider lights that turn on just at night along the hallway to the bathroom, or install motion-activated lights that sense your movement in the dark.

Also, consider adding more floor lamps and lights under the cabinets to help you see better during your day. More light just makes tasks more manageable.

Add cushioned mats to the kitchen

Ivan/Adobe man stands near stove waits for the dish to be ready

If you spend much time in the kitchen, make it easy by placing slip-resistant, cushioned mats along the floors, especially in front of the sink and counter areas. Wood or tile hard floors cause fatigue quickly.

You may also want to remove small rugs that flip up and cause a tripping hazard.

Move the washer and dryer

Stella/Adobe elderly woman doing laundry with washing machine

Whenever possible, move the washer and dryer into the main level of the home, where you spend most of your time. That keeps you away from the stairs.

Falls are among the most significant worries for seniors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls sent more than three million adults over 65 to emergency departments in 2020.

Install ergonomic light switches

fizkes/Adobe A light switch

The next upgrade you should make is installing light switches that are simple to use. Ergonomic light switches, or rockers, don't require a person to pinch their fingers together to adjust a switch or dial. Instead, you simply push them on and off easily.

For any home, regardless of the homeowner's age, a rocker light switch is a stylish-looking alternative to the usual toggle switch.

Add smart technology

Angelov/Adobe senior woman at home standing at kitchen holding digital tablet

Take the time to install and learn to use smart technology. That should include a home security system, remote monitoring system, or medical alert system. You don’t want to fall and be unable to get help when needed.

Smart technology can also help to improve security if you're living alone. For example, having door and window sensors enables you to ensure your home remains safe. In addition, a smart home security system will let your family check on you when necessary.

Also, consider the value of a home monitoring system. In addition to being a security system, it notifies the police when the security system is triggered, even if you cannot call 911 for help.

Upgrade your faucets

peopleimages.com/Adobe mature woman washing her hands in the kitchen sink

Over time, twisting and turning the knobs on a faucet can become tricky, especially if you develop arthritis. Replace the taps throughout the home with lever models or those with a sensor.

You can also upgrade to a model that doesn’t allow super hot water to come out, which can sometimes burn a person who can't move their hands out of the way fast enough.

Reorganize closets

Andrey Popov/Adobe closet declutter and cleaning

Your closets can be problematic for you over time, especially when you can’t easily reach the top shelf any longer or you cannot climb into the back to find a missing shoe.

Instead, organize them now while you can do so with ease. Get rid of what you don’t need, add some shelves that are easier to reach, and consider limiting keepsakes that are only collecting dust.

Declutter and organize your bedroom

GENETTICA/Adobe smartphone with battery charging icon

Keep your bedroom as clutter-free as possible don't let it become a storage area. This helps facilitate safer movement throughout the room. 

Ensure your phone’s charging cable, bedside lamp, and other nighttime necessities are within reach. You’ll also want to avoid carpeting that could cause a tripping hazard.

Bottom line

Krakenimages.com/Adobe middle aged woman with grey hair smiling

Now is the time to make your home safer for retirement, even if it seems years away. Installing better lighting and a smart home system now could help you stay comfortable and safe as your mobility and agility decrease with age.

Also, consider whether your health care coverage offers financial compensation for these modifications. Although Medicare doesn’t, some supplemental plans may. That could help you cover these costs and keep more money in your bank account.

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Author Details

Sandy Baker

Sandy Baker is a has over 17 years of experience in the financial sector. Her experience includes website content, blogs, and social media. She’s worked with companies such as Realtor.com, Bankrate, TransUnion, Equifax, and Consumer Affairs.