Future-proof your home

Posted on December 21, 2015 by Eleanor McKenzie
Houses on a Residential Street in UK

I must admit, that my love of DIY ranks somewhere alongside ‘doing exercise’, both of which are way down my ‘pleasure scale’, far below reading books and drinking wine. Yes, I have been on numerous occasions pretty handy with a paintbrush, although I’m not sure that my technique would find approval with master painters. But, apart from that and knocking a few nails into walls to hang pictures is where B&Q and I go our separate ways. However, there is a new wave of DIY activity among the generation of people in their 60s that is highly practical and filled with foresight – it’s called ‘future proofing’!

Recent research

According to research by UK organisations some 20% of the generation now in their 60s are using their DIY skills and their savings to future-proof their homes so that they can continue to live in them as they age. It’s a brilliant plan, and with so many people leading active lives well into their 80s and beyond, it makes sense to try and stay in the home you’ve spent most of your life in, rather than be forced to move because the house is just not adapted to your current needs.

Indeed, the report states that 25% of respondents are taking action now so that they can stay in them as long as possible, and 1 in 10 people cited ‘staying independent’ as another motive for getting the toolbox out. So, what are the main forms of ‘future-proofing’ that these dedicated DIY experts are using?

The most popular future-proof adaptations

Easy access to a shower is a significant priority. I know that even now, I am often concerned about slipping in the bathtub while having a shower. Getting out of a shower that’s in a bathtub isn’t getting any easier either. I also know that many people don’t have a walk-in shower and so, it’s no surprise that 31% of future-proofers have put a ‘level-entry’ shower, or a wet room, at the top of the adaptations list.

Making front doorways more accessible with the addition of a ramp is on the list of 1 in 10 of the people surveyed, which is very sensible when you consider the possibility of future wheelchair or mobility scooter use. Other things to consider are stair lifts and making sure that everything needed is at a height within easy reach, so that there’s no need to use ladders or kitchen steps to get hold of something. Making floor coverings slip-proof, is also important.

It’s interesting to note that 37% of the people surveyed said that having made these adaptations, they now felt much more confident about the future, and at least 25% claimed that they had stopped worrying as much about how they would cope in the home as they aged.


Walk in shower in a bathroom

Future-proofing isn’t for everyone

However, not everyone surveyed wanted to get involved with future-proofing. At least 1 in 20 confessed to not wanting to think about getting older. Plus, a significant 1 in 5 said that they wouldn’t consider having a home adaptation unless their GP advised them to have it done.

The role of GPs

The research shows that GPs have an important role to play in future proofing, as 33% of the people who responded stated that they’d made adaptations because their home was no longer liveable in, because of age-related issues, and that for 1 in 10 of them, their GP had been a deciding influence when it came to getting work done. Admittedly, this group were in their 70s and reported that they had been encouraged by family as well as medical advice to have adaptations made that allowed them to remain at home.

It would be interesting to know from the research whether or not the people who have already started planning for the future are also those same people who thought about pension plans at an early age. I would imagine, that many future-proofers are people who have ‘future-proofed’ their lives since childhood. This is not a criticism, but an acknowledgement that we all approach life differently.

Don’t leave it too late!

It would seem that too many of us are taking a ‘leave it until later’ approach and that whilst there are some forward-thinking 60-year-olds, the reality is that for many older people the need for future proofing is only realised after an accident or an illness. Well, in view of that advice, I’m looking at a catalogue with some nice walk-in showers; all I need is a DIY expert to install it and I’ll be well on my way to being future-proofed.

by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.