An Aging-in-Place Checklist for Your Home

Leo Moss presented the checklist at the BBR annual meeting on June 6.

Leo Moss presented the checklist at the BBR annual meeting on June 6.

Aging in place was the focus of the Boston Building Resources annual meeting on June 6. As part of a panel discussion, Leo Moss, longtime coordinator of the Senior Home Improvement Program of Bay Cove / Kit Clark, in partnership with the City of Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development, presented a checklist designed for senior homeowners who wish to continue living in their current residences as they get older. The checklist will help them identify potential updates that will improve safety, convenience, and accessibility.

Addressing any areas of concern proactively can prevent accidents, such as slips and falls that may lead to serious injury and disability. The checklist is reproduced here with permission.


  • Slip-resistant stairs and ramp, with color contrast or glow strips at treads
  • Handrails are easy to reach, of graspable size, and slip-resistant
  • Porch area is in usable condition and free of obstructions or dark areas
  • Accessible doorways for walkers, wheelchairs, etc.
  • Lighting is adequate (security or interior-controlled, or both)
  • Low-maintenance exterior (vinyl, brick, etc.)
  • Driveway and walkways in good repair for safe walking
  • Yard, gates, and fence are easy to access and locking/secured
  • Check for hazards in the garage (attached or freestanding) and other outbuildings
  • Low-maintenance shrubs and plants, lawn care, trees on property
  • Snowblower or other provisions for snowy weather, where applicable


  • House number is clearly visible from the street for first responders
  • Sensor/security light at the main exterior door
  • Peephole at proper height for all residents (may require multiples)
  • Doorbell in accessible location
  • Surface on which to place packages while opening the door
  • Non-slip flooring in the foyer

Interior: Electrical, lighting, safety and security

  • Light-activated doorbell for hard-of-hearing residents
  • Smoke and CO detectors
  • Security alarm, emergency alert system, and/or video monitoring system
  • Thermostats are easy to locate; settings are easy to read (and no higher than 48 inches from the floor)
  • Light switches are located near each entrance to each hallway and room
  • Standard light switches, rocker switches, touch switches, or motion-activated
  • Two light bulbs or receptacles in each vital place (exits, bathrooms, etc.)
  • Electrical cords out of the flow of traffic
  • Receptacles are easy to reach and are not overloaded
  • Windows and safety locks are easy to operate
  • Window drapes, shades, and cords are easy to reach and open/close
  • Interior stairs use contrast strip on top and bottom stairs, and color contrast between treads and risers, with use of lighting

Kitchen: Appliances and maneuverability

  • Microwave oven in wall or counter; settings are easy to read
  • Refrigerator and freezer are a side-by-side unit
  • Side-swing or wall oven; settings are easy to read and knobs are easy to turn
  • Raised washing machine and dryer; settings are easy to read and knobs are easy to turn. Washing machine is front-loading.
  • Raised dishwasher with push-button controls or easy-to-turn knobs
  • Stoves with electric or induction cooktop (safer than gas) with level burners for safely transferring between the burners. Front controls and downdraft feature to pull heat away from the user; light to indicate when surface is hot.
  • Space around counters, islands, etc., is wide enough for residents: 30” x 48” clear space at appliances and 60” diameter clear space for turns
  • Cabinets: easy to reach, knobs/pulls are easy to use to open/close, open shelving, or glass fronts
  • Placement of task lighting in appropriate work areas
  • Rugs have slip-resistant backing to prevent slips and falls
  • Window curtains, shades, and cords are easy to reach and open/close

Bathroom: Fixtures and maneuverability

  • Counter heights are custom-fit, adequate and safe for residents
  • Rugs have slip-resistant backing to prevent slips and falls
  • Windows are easy to reach and open/close
  • Door access to tub and shower
  • Fold-down seat installed in shower
  • Shower(s) equipped with adjustable showerhead with six-foot hose
  • Shower stall has recessed, waterproof, automatic light
  • If stand-up shower is used in main bath, it is curbless and wide. If tub is used, it is low for easy access and egress
  • Flooring in bathtub/shower is slip-resistant
  • Emergency call button or intercom is located in bathroom, easy to reach, and is easily operated
  • Wall grab bars of appropriate height are located in tub, shower, and toilet areas
  • Adjustable or appropriate-height counters with removable base cabinet for wheelchair accessibility
  • Countertops have contrasting-color edges
  • Toilet is raised or adjustable height
  • Toilet paper holder is designed such that rolls can be switched out using only one hand
  • Faucet handles are lever design rather than knob, or pedal-controlled
  • Cabinets are easy to reach and are open shelves, glass fronts, or doorless
  • At least one bathroom is wheelchair accessible and on the main level


  • If carpeted, use low-density pile with firm pad
  • Smooth, non-glare, slip-resistant surfaces
  • Color and texture contrast to indicate change in surface levels
  • Rugs and rug runners are secure and non-slip; edges are secured down
  • No steps between rooms on a single level

Miscellaneous tips

  • In multi-story homes, laundry chute or laundry facilities located on the same floor as the master bedroom
  • Main living area is on a single story, including full bath
  • 5-foot x 5-foot clear turn space in all main rooms
  • For multi-level homes, residential elevator or lift installed
  • Lighting in all closets

The checklist is not meant to replace the requirements of a standard residential home inspection. It can be used in addition to a standard home inspection for clients with special needs. Copyright Kit Clark / Bay Cove; reproduced here with permission.

Learn more about the Senior Home Improvement Program at Kit Clark / Bay Cove.

Show That You’re #BBRproud and You Could Win a Prize

Boston Building Resources customers, donors, and supporters are invited to show off their new kitchens, boast about their best bargains, document their donations, and more as part of a spring social media campaign, #BBRproud.

The campaign will run for six weeks, from May 8 through June 16, celebrating the pride of taking care of one’s home, reducing climate impact, and giving back to the community.

To enter, contestants should take a photo and post it to Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter using the hashtag #BBRproud and tagging or adding Boston Building Resources. The photos should include the contestant’s face and something from BBR: materials purchased, a visit to the store, or a company vehicle or display. For example:

Prizes will include a $50 gift certificate (one winner), $25 gift certificates (three winners), and multi-packs of energy-saving LED bulbs (10 winners). For each social media post, the participant’s name will be entered into the drawing. Multiple entries per person are encouraged.

Those who enter by June 2 could have their photo included in a video to be shown at the Boston Building Resources annual meeting on Tuesday, June 6.

Are you #BBRproud? Shout it loud!

Environmental Choices Start with the Big Stuff

For Earth Day, we asked BBR staff member Greg Caplan to summarize his thoughts on how each of us can contribute to true environmental solutions. This is his advice.

To benefit the earth for your children’s and grandchildren’s sake, the most effective actions are those that address the largest scale issues of climate, social equity, and population. Therefore, the most important things to do for Earth Day and every day are in the context of social, environmental, and political activism. Thousands of organizations welcome your participation at the local, state, national, and global levels.

When it comes to the character of your physical lifestyle and how you can make that express your caring for the world and fellow beings, a good guide is the Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices published by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Borrow it from your local library if you’d like to read it in full.

Insulation helps create a tight building envelope to minimize energy used for heating and cooling. Photo by Jesus Rodriguez | Flickr Creative Commons

Insulation helps create a tight building envelope to minimize energy used for heating and cooling. Photo by Jesus Rodriguez | Flickr Creative Commons

The primary message of this book is: Don’t focus on the small stuff. Be prepared to make big decisions in a way that benefits the environment. Focus on making the best decisions when the big or long-term things come up. For example:

  • When selecting a home, prioritize environmental attributes such as proximity to work or school, walkable location, modest size, and energy efficiency.
  • When a home needs a new roof or siding, make it an opportunity for a deep energy retrofit. Funding programs are available to support this.
  • For space heating and cooling, first, reduce the need by upgrading the building “envelope.” Then match the mechanical system to provide comfort.

Also, to make a real difference:

  • Reduce the size and number of properties you maintain and/or occupy.
  • Go car-free, or the closest you can come to it.
  • Select the most locally produced renewable electrical power your utility or municipality’s contracts offer, i.e., Mass Energy’s New England Wind Power.
  • If possible, install solar electric and/or solar hot water generation.
  • In the area of diet, prefer vegetables, grains, and fruit over meats and dairy, particularly red meats. For excellent protein levels, try modern meat substitute products made from pea and mushroom and other vegetable proteins. As Michael Pollan formulates: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.
  • Share resources by donating on a continuous basis to organizations that promote environmental justice and balance and social/economic equity.

In a subsequent volume titled Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living, UCS also emphasizes the essential role of community involvement and activism in acting for true benefit of our posterity.