24 Environmental Home Renovations for Seniors: A Guide to Eco-Friendly Aging in Place
As an older adult, you have more than likely seen changes in our environment throughout your lifetime. Maybe you’ve seen more extreme weather patterns, watched as some of your favorite animals have become extinct or noticed firsthand how the tides have changed — both figuratively and literally.
The U.S. expects to see more than 95 million adults ages 65 and older by 2060, and your generation is key to making our world more sustainable.1 The world needs every person to do their part in the name of the environment, and there are plenty of ways in which you can help.
But with green improvements comes the potential for injury, so it’s important to follow safety protocols to avoid a fall or injury. Every year, nearly 36 million older adults report falls, and these falls have led to about 32,000 deaths.2
This guide to eco-friendly aging in place can help you learn more about home sustainability and how to use green living practices to live a more fulfilling life, stay safe and active, and do your part to save our environment.
Sustainable Home Improvement and Safety Tips for Seniors
According to the AARP, about half of all adults anticipate that they will remain in their homes or community as they get older, and about 66% of adults ages 65 and older report that they will not move from their current residence and prefer to age in place.3
Because so many adults prefer to remain in their homes as they get older, it’s important to ready your home with sustainable updates designed to support aging. Many of these energy-efficient upgrades are simple fixes, but others may require more intense renovations, especially if your home is more than one story.
Among all the reasons to build a more sustainable home, the most important is to make it safer. Should you suffer a fall, the repercussions could be severe. Instead, install these safe and sustainable upgrades to modernize your home.
The bathroom is notoriously the most dangerous room in the house regardless of age, but it is the location where many seniors will experience falls. Much of these accidents are due to slick, soapy floors, but burns are also an issue should faucet water be too hot. Avoid a fatal fall or burn injury by installing the following:
- Add eco-friendly latex non-skid mats to minimize slip potential
- Use elevated energy-efficient toilets for easier sitting and water preservation
- Install tub seats and walk-in showers for easier washing and less water waste
- Set water heater to a maximum temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid burns
In the bedroom, the most dangerous place is actually the bed. As you age, it will become more difficult to get in and out of bed. And, you may get in and out of bed more often to use the bathroom, loosen stiff joints or simply grab a glass of water.
To avoid falling out of bed and hurting yourself, you can install railings or make sure to have a walker or cane placed at the edge of your bed for better night support. You can also:
- Move your bedroom downstairs
- Install grab bars above the bed to make it easier to get in and out
- Get a firmer mattress with eco-friendly CertiPUR-US certifications that has better back support4
The kitchen can also be a dangerous place if it is not properly designed. The most common kitchen injuries are burns, cuts and falls. Aging adults can do the following to make their kitchens a safer place:
- Raise the dishwasher to avoid bending
- Install environmentally friendly decomposed granite countertops
- Make flat surfaces around the stove so it’s easier to clean
- Lower the height of countertops for ease of use
- Install non-slip latex mats to prevent falls
The living room becomes a problem if it is difficult to navigate. Living room updates mostly aim to make the space more user-friendly and better suited for mobility. Here are a few things you can do to make your living room easier to move around:
- Make sure all carpet corners are taped down to prevent tripping
- If you need wheelchair accessibility, take out carpet and install environmentally friendly cork or bamboo flooring
- Widen doorways for easier wheelchair and walker access
- Declutter your home
Other Sustainable Living Tips
The tips in the room-specific sections only scratch the surface of what you can do to make your home a safer place to age. As your home appliances get older and need to be replaced, update them with more energy-efficient options and make sure you consider the following sustainable living swaps:
- Energy-efficient oven, range, dishwasher and refrigerator
- Smart thermostat to control temperatures more efficiently
- Solar panels to offset your home energy costs or help power in-home medical devices
- Heated floors for better internal temperature control
- Windows rated for energy efficiency
- Handles instead of knobs for easier grasping
- Energy-efficient LED lights (and install plenty of them to improve visibility)
12 Eco-Friendly Life Hacks for Seniors
The battle against climate change can only be won if all generations work together to implement sustainable living into their daily lives, and there are many ways for the senior community to do their part.
8 Tips for Green Living
Green living doesn’t have to be hard for seniors. There are many ways you can be more sustainable without having to make major changes to your daily lifestyle. Plus, many of these activities are great for your physical and mental health, not to mention a great way to meet other eco-conscious older adults in your community.
Plant a Home Garden or Join a Community Garden
As you get older, you might find that you have more time on your hands. This is an excellent time to plant a home garden or join a community garden. You can maintain your own supply of fruits, vegetables and herbs so you can eat well and sustainably. Gardening is also great exercise and you can get your body moving in a way that’s easy on the joints.
In addition to supplying your own food, gardening is an excellent opportunity to boost social interaction. Because it is so important to develop relationships and find friends in the older adult community, gardening is a great activity for all.
Choose Organic and Sustainably-Sourced Products
Not all foods are sourced sustainably, so try to make a conscious effort to choose organic and sustainably sourced products for your home. Organic products are grown with fewer chemicals and preservatives, so these products are better for your health.
Use Reusable Mugs and Water Bottles
Instead of using a new plastic water bottle or coffee mug every time you have something to drink, invest in a reusable water bottle and coffee thermos. In addition to lowering your contributions to the massive amounts of plastic that plague our waste sites, switching to reusable drinkware will also help you save money by not having to constantly buy new water bottles or paper coffee cups.
Rely on Fresh Air
One of the easiest ways to save money on your electric bill is to use fresh air and open windows to maintain the temperature of your home when possible. This may not be possible year-round, but when the seasons change or when the weather is temperate, it can be a great way to lessen your energy costs and enjoy the fresh air.
Install Energy-Efficient Appliances
As your older appliances break down or need to be replaced, consider installing energy-efficient appliances instead. These appliances are better for the environment and they will also save you money on your energy bills. You can install energy-efficient washers, dryers, refrigerators, HVAC systems, dishwashers and more.
These appliances may seem like quite the investment upfront, but they will save you money in the long run. As you continuously upgrade your appliances, you will start to see the positive impact on your monthly utility bills.
Car Pools and Ride Shares
As you get older, you may not drive as much or feel as comfortable driving on your own. As more rideshare and carpool companies have entered the scene, these services have become more widely available and safe for older adults.
Ride shares, such as Uber and Lyft, can save you money in an abundance of ways. You will no longer have to maintain a vehicle, you won’t have to pay for gas and you won’t have to store your car when not in use. Some rideshare companies also offer free or discounted rides to doctors’ appointments and medical treatments.
Downsize Your Home
You might own a home that you’ve had for what seems like forever, but sometimes it’s hard to take care of such a large house as you grow older. You can, of course, stay in your home and age in place, but it might also be worth it to consider downsizing. Not only will you have fewer bills each month, but you will have less space to maintain as you get older.
Invest in Community Solar Gardens
We understand if you’re not interested in buying your own solar panels to offset your energy bill. But many communities and states across the U.S. have started to build community solar gardens for community members to invest in instead. This allows you to benefit from sustainable solar energy without the high upfront cost of installing a home solar system.
By investing in community solar, you will be doing your part to use more sustainable energy sources and lessen your reliance on the power grid. In turn, this will help energy companies keep up with regular maintenance and supply electricity to homes that rely on it.
4 Benefits of Sustainable Living for Seniors
Not only are eco-friendly home updates beneficial for the environment, but there are several other benefits for those 65 and older.
- Going green can save money: Energy efficient updates — such as Energy Star windows, solar panels or appliances that use less water and improved insulation — can help you save money by using less energy.
- Builds a stronger community: Regular social connection has many positive impacts on the senior community, including improved mood, fewer negative feelings and increased physical activity.5 Many eco-friendly practices, like gardening, encourage social interaction among friends, family and community members.
- Encourages an active lifestyle: Gardening and community clean-ups are a great way to boost physical activity, vitamin D intake and social interaction.
- Find meaning with positive change: As you age, it’s important to cultivate a sense of purpose, and investing in eco-friendly living is an excellent way to do so. When you find a purpose in life, you are more likely to have better physical and mental well-being.6
5 Home Improvement Grant Options for Seniors
There is no hiding that sustainable home improvement is expensive, but because it is so necessary, many organizations offer financial assistance to help older adults fund their projects. The best places to contact for home improvement funds are your local church and government, but other options for financial assistance can be found in the chart below.
|Senior Home Improvement Program Name||Description|
|Low-income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)||This program helps older adults who qualify as low-income pay for home energy, weatherization, energy-related home repairs and HVAC systems.|
|The United States’ Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)||WAP helps low-income families and seniors access energy efficiency upgrades to reduce the costs of their energy bills.|
|Single-family Housing Repair Loans & Grants from the USDA||The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers loans and grants to those over the age of 62 to repair home appliances and upgrade outdated home systems.|
|Housing For Persons With Disabilities Program from the VA||The Department of Veterans Affairs offers grants to veterans who have permanent disabilities. If you qualify, you can get funds to purchase or build adapted housing.|
|Housing Preservation Grant Program (HPG)||Low-income older adults who live in rural areas may qualify for financial assistance to help preserve their homes. This grant is meant to help seniors get loans, interest reduction and home improvements.|