Aging in Place

Practical Exterior Tips for Home Owners Planning for the Future

Do you know what to look for or what you should invest in as far as your home’s exterior if you want to remain in your home for the long term? There are several things that, if incorporated, will make your life easier and safer as you remain in your home. 

Art Dunn of Nanlow-Dunn, Inc. (YourHomeServesYou) has generously shared several safety and home electrical tips in addition to my information within this blog.  Art brings first hand experience in several electrical fields ranging from electrician to burglar alarm company contractor to home automation.  His experience and expertise will enhance the practical, real world solutions I provide.  He will continue to collaborate with me in future blog entries as well.  Please visit his website for more information in addition to what is presented within these entries and check back often for more practical information you can use in your home whether you are choosing to age in place or are planning for an active retirement. 

  • Plan for home entrance accessibility:

    • An ideal situation for entrance accessibility would be a level surface with no ramp or stairs required. This is the safest and least expensive approach to the home. If this is not be possible, a ramp with a 1:12 or greater slope would be the next best choice. (For those not sure what that means, it means the ramp will go up no more than one foot in a twelve foot length of space). The drawback to the ramp in front of the home is that it is almost a billboard announcing someone older or with a disability lives there.
    • If a ramp is required, consider access through the garage. A ramp or a special lift (think motorized platform) can be installed in the garage providing a protected entrance from the elements and from a safety point.
    • Another entrance accessibility to consider is a wider entry doorway. Consider the newer. wider entrance doors that are more than 36 inches wide for easier maneuverability. Ever have to carry a bunch of groceries through a smaller doorway? Everyone benefits from a wider doorway.
  • Plan for safety needs: 

    • Consider your door handles: door handles should be lever type. They are easier to open if you have limited dexterity. Exterior doors should be equipped with dead-bolt locks as well.  Make sure there is a peep-hole that is at your eye level

    • Exterior lighting should be installed so as to avoid a blinding glare. Fixtures should cast light downward, not horizontally. A light shining in your eyes and blinding you is less than ideal. If you can not relocate the fixture, try changing the fixture to one that is shaded to reduce glare. At the very least, a frosted light bulb rather than a clear one is needed for clear glass enclosed fixtures. Avoid creating shadows because it could hide intruders and can hide tripping hazards.

    • Plan landscaping so that there is still easy access to utilities like electrical panels, gas or water shut off valves and fire hydrant is ensured. Easy access to these items makes it safer for you to access and for repairs or serviceability.

    • Street numbers should be easy to read from the curb. Consider a lighted street number sign and have the numbers painted on your curb. Time is of the essence in an emergency and should not be lost by emergency responders trying to find the right address.
  • Plan for low maintenance:

    • Exterior facades should be low maintenance. This is a safety issue as well. As we age, our dexterity becomes limited and climbing and repairing the home exterior can be dangerous.
    • Consider low maintenance brick or vinyl siding that has a UV block in it so that it does not become brittle. Choose paint that is designed for longevity and will withstand the elements. If something does need to be painted, consider hiring a qualified, well referenced painter.


  • Think about using resin based decking and products like Trex for porches and stairs. These materials last far longer than wood and do not require sealing and/or painting.
  • Plan landscaping that is low-maintenance and ensure easy access to utilities like the electrical panels, gas or water shut off valves and never fence around hydrants. Either keep hedges trimmed around transformers or other utility boxes in yard, or plant dwarf varieties that will not interfere as they mature. If you are unable to take care of your landscaping, consider hiring someone.  Consider Xeric landscaping that requires low or not watering and very low maintenance.

Choices for the exterior of your home should promote easy access, safety, and low maintenance. By choosing wisely the location and finishes for the home, your home will be more comfortable for you now and in the future. Think about how you will enter your home, how your exterior will look and how you will take care of it and let those considerations be your guides.  After all, isn’t active senior living supposed to be enjoyable?


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