Many property owners cater to young renters and families more so than older tenants. But actually, the number of older Americans who are opting to rent homes has been climbing. From 2007 to 2017, the number of renter households aged 60 and over went from 6.5 million to 9.4 million, representing a 43% increase.
It’s easy to see why renting appeals to seniors. Many are on a fixed income and would rather lock in their monthly housing costs than run the risk of costly repairs and rising property taxes. Additionally, many seniors aren’t equipped to maintain homes themselves, so it’s easier for them to pay a landlord and know that if something breaks, that landlord is responsible for fixing it.
If you own property someplace with an older demographic, then it pays to make your rental units as senior-friendly as possible. Here are a few safety features that will help you do just that.
1. Wider doorways
Many older people have mobility issues and need walkers or wheelchairs to maneuver. The problem? Many standard doorways can't accommodate these devices. If you update your rental units to allow for wider doorways, you'll eliminate that major point of concern for seniors who may be interested in becoming tenants.
2. Better lighting
Proper lighting is important for seniors, as it can help them avoid injury. Assess your rental units and see if a lighting upgrade is in order. And when you do, focus on areas like kitchen counters and bathrooms -- places where the potential for harm really exists.
Many seniors struggle with balance, so handrails are a great addition to help prevent falls. Consider installing handrails in kitchens, bedrooms, and bathrooms (specifically, near toilets, as senior renters may need the extra means of support when sitting down and standing up).
4. Even flooring
Raised flooring from one room to the next can constitute a major tripping hazard. As such, it pays to flatten entryways and thresholds to ensure that seniors can step evenly from one room to another.
5. Safe showers
Showering is an activity that many of us take for granted, but for older people, it can be a harrowing experience. There are a few ways you can make your showers more senior-friendly. First, aim to replace shower-tub combinations with walk-in showers. Climbing over the side of a tub can be tricky even for agile folks, but for seniors, it can be downright dangerous. Next, install grab bars in showers so that older residents can steady themselves as they bathe. Additionally, consider putting in shower seats so that seniors can take a load off while getting clean. Finally, replace standard shower heads with flexible, removable faucets so that seniors don't have to twist their bodies in an effort to rinse.
These days, a lot of older Americans are opting to age independently in their homes rather than move to a senior living facility. As a landlord, it pays to capitalize on the opportunity to attract senior renters, especially if you own property in an area with a large older population. A few modest investments on your part could really open up your tenant pool. Just as importantly, the above safety features could help you avoid legal trouble if a senior tenant does get hurt in one of your units.