Seniors make great renters. They’re typically quiet, and because they tend to be on fixed incomes — meaning steady incomes — they’re likely to pay their bills on time.
Also, there are more seniors who want to rent these days.
The challenges of advancing age, however, include special needs that not every rental is set up to meet. Here are 10 easy ways to make your rental friendly for seniors, as well as anyone else who lives in it.
Failing eyesight is something that many people deal with as they age. These four upgrades help people with vision problems.
1. Paint the walls light colors
Light colors are a good idea in any rental, but they’re especially appreciated when the renters are seniors with less-than-perfect vision. Light walls are more reflective than dark ones, and that makes it easier to see.
2. Add lighting layers
Overhead lighting isn’t enough; it provides only diffuse illumination around the edges of a room. Augment it with other lighting, such as wall sconces, pendants, or table lights, and you’ll score points with elderly renters. Hit a home run by providing task lighting for people who like to read, sew, or do crafts.
3. Install easy-to-operate switches
Traditional toggle switches aren’t difficult to operate, even for someone with arthritis, but rocker switches are even easier, and retrofitting a switch is one of the easiest electrical tasks around the house. If you provide dimmers for the overhead lights, which is a good idea, consider the type that use a slider or — even better — a touch-sensitive swipe pad.
4. Provide night lights
Make nighttime visits to the loo or the kitchen safer and easier by plugging one or two night lights into strategic outlets. Motion-sensor night lights don’t cost much more than regular ones and are great for people who like to sleep in the dark.
The potential for falling is high in bathrooms, and people with limited mobility can feel particularly challenged in this room. Here are four easy fixes to make this room easier to use.
5. Update the faucets
People with arthritis often have a hard time making twisting motions with the wrist, but they won’t have to if the faucets have levers. If you want to go all out, you can provide a sink faucet with an electronic sensor, but you may need to install an outlet under the sink to accommodate it.
6. Add grab bars
No grab bars in the bathroom? Someone who needs stability will probably use the towel racks, and they aren’t designed for that. Placing one grab bar next to the toilet and one in the shower is ideal, and it’s an easy thing to do, even if the walls are tiled. If you don’t want to install permanent grab bars, consider this movable wall-to-ceiling pole, which can even be transferred to the bedroom if needed there.
7. Install a handheld shower
A handheld shower head is a must when someone requires help to shower, and it’s one of the easiest of plumbing fixtures to install. Unscrew the existing shower head, replace it with the adapter, and screw the existing shower head and the handheld shower onto the appropriate outlets. These aren’t just for seniors; they’re a bonus for families with small children.
8. Provide a toilet seat riser and a movable paper holder
Sitting on a traditional toilet seat is challenging for someone with mobility problems or someone who needs to transfer from a wheelchair. Not everyone needs a riser, so instead of installing a permanent one, consider providing a removable riser. Perhaps it can live next to the toilet or in the towel closet when no one is using it.
The position of the toilet doesn’t always allow for convenient placement of the toilet paper holder. Provide a movable holder and your tenants can place it wherever it’s most convenient. That way they can reach it without contorting the upper body.
9. Install Nonslip Flooring
Hard flooring, such as ceramic and glass, doesn’t provide enough traction for canes, crutches, and even some types of shoes. Thick carpeting isn’t the answer because it can feel like sand when navigating through it in a wheelchair. Besides, carpeting is prone to spill damage.
When considering a flooring option, especially tile, look for the slip coefficient in the manufacturer’s literature. Also known as the coefficient of friction, it’s a number between 0 (slippery) and 1 (not slippery). It is an important number when it comes to safety. The International Building Code specifies a 0.42 minimum slip coefficient for interior flooring. For elderly and disabled folks, 0.60 to 0.80 is safer.
Here are some great nonslip, durable flooring choices:
- Luxury vinyl tiles
- Pine or fir planks
It’s best to avoid pre-finished hardwood, bamboo, or laminates, because baked-on polyurethane finishes can be as slippery as porcelain. If you already have this type of flooring and want to keep it, avoid waxing it.
10. Set Directional Covers on the Hot Air Vents
People with circulation problems have a hard time staying warm and may set the thermostat higher than necessary. They won’t need to do this if the heat registers have deflectors that direct the air into the room instead of toward the ceiling. Most covers are magnetic — just set them on the metal vent cover and they’ll stay there until you move them.
ADA Compliance for Seniors
If you’re doing an extensive remodel of your rental property, consider making the changes compliant with the guidelines established by the Americans with Disabilities Act. ADA compliance isn’t required in private residences, but more property owners follow the guidelines to avoid potential accessibility issues. When looking for a place to live, many seniors consider ADA compliance a bonus.
Make any of these easy upgrades, and your rental will be safer and more convenient for anyone who lives in it — not just seniors.