Slow changes to help you stay in your home

29 May 2018
We've come to the end of a two year period of renovations and home improvements. We did the work as we had the money, time and energy for it. Our goal was to modernise and safety-proof our home for our older age, and for our children to be able to easily sell the house when we die. While not wanting to sound morbid, that time is coming for us in the next 10 - 20 years and we don't want to spend that time on home improvements. We want to live life to the full, enjoy each other's company and provide hospitality when family and friends visit us. As it stands now, we both feel we've done enough to allow us to relax and live well although we'll continue to upgrade any safety concerns that present themselves in the coming years.





Our latest project was to remove old white ceramic tiles from the kitchen splash-back and replace them with some beautiful Scandinavian tiles. Our kitchen is 21 years old now. We designed the kitchen and had it built when we moved into our pre-loved home 21 years ago. Our kitchen was made in Australia and installed by local tradesmen. It shows - it's served us well and still looks good today. Apart from replacing the counter tops and the under sink cupboard when our old dishwasher flooded the kitchen, we haven't replaced any drawer runners, hinges or hardware and they're all still working perfectly. That room is a pleasure to work in and I think it's probably the room I spend the most time in.


In general, most of us don't think about the house maintenance we can do as we age but it makes a huge difference to the long-term suitability and comfort of your home. If you intend living in your own home until the end, you'll need to think about what changes and improvements you can do as you age to help you do that. What is suitable in your 40s and 50s changes in your 60s and when you move into your 70s, you'll need a safe and secure home that is easy to move around in with few steps and no slippery floors. You'll need a good kitchen and bathroom that will help you stay fed and clean long into your senior years. Try to do the work in bits and pieces before you lose the energy and strength to do it. This is one of the things you can plan for when you're moving from one decade to the next.  Work out what needs fixing or changing, and what would make life easier for you, then plan your budget and timeline.



Our renovations were done on a strict budget. We bought the materials after looking around for the best prices and while we didn't always go for the lowest price, we focused instead on value for money. When we needed help, we got someone from Airtasker.  Our work took two years but we planned it that way so we could do the work when it suited us and when we had the spare cash to buy our materials. You may be many years away from these changes but I'm sure there are many readers here who could start planning tomorrow. I encourage you, no matter what age you're at, to start thinking about what you can do for yourself as you age so you can enjoy your later years in peace, safety and comfort.

52 comments

  1. This is a post that is a very current topic in our household. After reading "Down to Earth" it got us thinking too about the life that is ahead of us. We are still fairly young, but my husband is 12 years older than I am, and that is a topic to think about now. He still has a good 10 years of work ahead of him, but we started talking about the future, very interesting to do, because till then neither of us really gave it that much thought.You think about it once in a while, but the thoughts fled as soon as they came up. Our oldest son is moving out this summer due to education to far from our home to go back and forth every day. Our youngest will stay with us for some years, but is gonna start working in 1 or 2 years. So we are thinking about a different home (we have lives in our current home for over 20 years), that has a bathroom and bedroom downstairs (not very common in our country) with enough space to move around even when one of us needs a walker for instance. Luckily we made financial plans a long time ago to enable me to work less or maybe even quit my job if my husband is retiring. To me this is a very interesting subject and I like the way you make is sound normal without being morbid. For some reason it is not a subject often talked about.

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  2. The tiles are beautiful Rhonda. I also love the wall color in your lounge. Looks so airy and bright.

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  3. Rhonda, it is great that you and Hanno are able to work as a team to ready your home for the future. It is looking very comfortable and I love the colours. I am sure your boys won't have any problem selling it down the track. Especially seeing as a famous author lived there ;-)

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  4. Having worked with seniors and now becoming one myself, this is a thing we need to think about. It is the little things like the throw rugs and cupboard heights that can bite us if we are not careful. Good thoughts!

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  5. You've both done a wonderful job Rhonda, your home looks lovely, we have to start on our house as well.

    Terrarossa

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  6. Oh, I love the blues you chose, Rhonda. Blue is my favourite colour - your blue wall and tiles look so fresh and beautiful. Even though I'm only in my 40s, I do think about our home and whether or not it will suit us as we get older. Perhaps I need to ponder that more! Meg:)

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  7. Couldn’t agree more. We got rid of our lawns and replaced them with gravel. Most plants are herbaceous. Raised beds built for the few veggies we grow. Always looking to slowly change things to meet our needs.

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  8. Wonderful kitchen Rhonda. We are just 57 but have always made our improvements aging-ready (my parents were aging when we bought this home in 1991 and they needed it safe.

    I have one question: you talk about not having slippery floors but you have hardwood. Does that concern you? We are currently in debate on flooring as it's long past time to replace our carpet. We go back and forth between no-gassing Bamboo and carpet. Thoughts?

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  9. Such an important topic Rhonda. I don't think it's morbid at all, just practical. We are all going to age and die so I think it's better to prepare for it as best we can.
    I didn't get a chance to comment the other day - love the new kitchen tiles.
    Hope your week is going well so far.
    Laura

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  10. It looks lovely ~ calm and relaxing.

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  11. I actually think that a lot of people think about what home will be like when we are older. I know many of my neighbours and I do. It is important after all to know you will not make stairs when 80 years old, or that you cannot maintain a fireplace when a similar age. We are having our kitchen painted which will certainly make it more livable,it was dark and dingy before; a new coat of paint will serve us the rest of the life here. We also replaced our heating system at a great sale price as it was off season. Our system had been in place since 1978, and was badly in need of updating. Half of our heat was escaping outside due to inadequate pipes and vents and now it is much more contained and much cleaner as well. Yes, we must take care of our homes if we want them to take care of us. We also take it a project at at time and look toward sales, alternate methods, and the immediate need.

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  12. The tiles look wonderful. To be totally honest I wasn't sure when I first saw them with the empty worktops, but now that the kitchen is 'back to normal' they do look really good.

    It is really sensible to be doing exactly what you are both doing at the moment, making the place safe, easy to work in and also family friendly,and very saleable. We are currently still working on a big declutter, I would hate for my boys to have to sort through masses of stuff if anything were to happen to us in the next few years.

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  13. All of the work that you and Hanno have done is lovely. Don and I are starting in June to do this same thing which will take many months. We are both in our late 70's and have been in our home for 30 years. Along the way we added a glassed in porch and a workshop. We will have much of the work done by others but will do what we can.We both have health issues and those will be addressed in the changes that we make. Wish us luck and wisdom as we start on these projects! Carolyn in Florida

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  14. I really respect how practical you and Hanno are about making your home work for you as you get older. This isn't an issue for us yet (we're in our late 30s) but both of us have started wondering and worrying about our parents and their homes as they move into their 70s. I'm sure your sons appreciate the peace of mind brought by knowing that you have made your home a safe place that is easier to care for, even as you get older.

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  15. I think this is such a positive post. I have elderly relatives who, to be honest, are burying their heads in the sand. You can't even broach the subject of ageing. As a couple we are thinking about changes that will need to be made to make us comfortable as we get older. Also, clearing out all the accumulated 'stuff' that our poor daughter would have to deal with when we go. Our kitchen will be having a face lift in the next year or so, just to bring it up to date and your tiles have given me a bit of inspiration, they're lovely.

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  16. Goodmorning Rhonda,
    I simply love the blue and white tiles, so very lovely. It’s amazing what a difference colour makes in our home. Good on you for making your home safe and suitable for your future, it will all be worth it in the end. Have a lovely day,
    Fi

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  17. Your sitting room looks lovely - such a restful colour. We have been mindful of getting older and made some changes to the garden to reduce maintenance and had some outside work done to level the approaches to the house. We are lucky to have the options for bed and bath on the ground floor if necessary. We learnt some valuable lessons from both sets of parents who got some things right and some wrong as they aged in their own homes. I expect we will get some things wrong too but we are at least thinking about the future and in a positive upbeat way. As you often remark the alternative to old age is an early death so we are lucky if we live to be old.

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  18. We too have been renovating. And yes like you I’m doing it with an eye to minimising the work needed to to keep it clean.
    Decluttering and modernising
    We painted and put new carpets. Our carpets were 25 years old! We got our moneys worth out of it lol
    Half the house is done. Second half will happen in a few months
    This will be the last time we redecorate. Next time it’s due we probably won’t be here anymore hubby will be almost 70. Assuming it last at least 15 before needing to be done again. And we will be be too old to maintain five acres

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  19. The back splash is beautiful. Your whole house looks really lovely.

    You are right about how one needs to make considerations for aging in place. No one likes to think about getting old or dying, but it makes it so much easier for family members when you have a plan.

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  20. I worked in aged care for 15 years so I am accustomed to evaluating people's homes for safety. There is nothing I haven't learned about what it is to grow older. We have a house that is up on stumps so we have steps to take us down to ground level. When we built this house 7 years ago I knew we may need to build a ramp in later years. We are just 55 and 57 now, but the practicalities of growing older are just a fact of life. We have an extensive number of wicking beds to grow our food in and I know that at some stage the ones that are up the hill will be dismantled and we would just have the ones here in the back yard that are close by. We also grow garlic and turmeric commercially. It is very hard work and we know that little sideline won't go on forever. Rhonda, your house is gorgeous. You two have done a great job. I love it when someone brings up a subject that others avoid for whatever reason, usually fear. So thank you for bringing it up.

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  21. It all looks so lovely, cosy and inviting. So glad to see you kept my favourite red and white check curtains! A great colour scheme. Thank you for letting us in to see. I love seeing other people's spaces. Not to judge but for ideas and also because people's spaces are often a reflection of what is important and inspiring to them.
    Excellent advice about future proofing. We moved 8 months ago and since then have completed many projects with this in mind. We downsized to 95sqm and a separate double garage that is good for storage. We still have a good sized garden but want to make better vegetable plots. We are enjoying having a decking that wraps 1/2 way around the house.
    What we are considering is double glazing as it is a 1990s house. We are wondering if that will help with condensation in the Winter. Is that something you have or maybe you don't need it in your climate? It's very expensive to do it here but the benefits could be worth it long term.
    Thank you again for your sharing and may you, Hanno and Gracie have many content years in your home.

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    1. Thanks Jamie. I don't know of anyone locally who has double grazing. We have a slight condensation problem in our ensuite bathroom but I always open the windows in the bathroom and bedroom during the day and that fixes it. Maybe others here might comment on condensation.

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    2. Hilde in GermanyMay 30, 2018 1:21 pm

      I don´t know where you live, but here in Germany double glazing has been the standard for many years. Our house was built in the 1980s, and it has double glazing. We never have had any problems with condensation. Most of the houses that are built now have triple glazing. The rules for energy-saving building are very strict here.

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  22. I'm planning my (hopefully) final house at the moment, to be built within a year or so. Would you all be willing to offer good/bad ideas that you or someone you know has dealt with? There are great suggestions in Rhonda's post and in the comments above and I'm taking notes :)

    Thank you! CJ

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    1. HI CJ. As my parents were older, when we did repair/replace:

      1. doorknobs: ours are paddle type. knobs that require grasp/twist are hard on arthritic hands.
      2. A shower that is easily stepped into or wheelchair transfer ready. A bathtub can be dangerous to step in/out of. Also be sure the flooring is not too slippery when wet.
      3. Minimize or NO steps/stairs. Our front door has a 4inch stepup which Dad could do easily with his cane and a wall to lean one hand on after making that step into the house.
      4. Flooring: if it is permanent be sure it's not too slippery.
      5. Toilets: consider the high rise style. Much easier on bad knees or back. Toilet risers can pose their own slip/fall risks.
      6. Kitchen: be sure you can reach everything needed without a step stool. This can apply all over the house.
      7. Be sure doorways are all wide enough for a wheelchair access should either of you become wheelchair dependent. (shower access too-we have a 36" glass swinging door on ours).

      Good on you for thinking about older age while you're building a brand new home for your family!

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  23. Your home looks very comfortable indeed. This is a thorny subjecy with us at the moment. My husband's elderly dad recently passed away. Now that we are 'adult orphans ',it is time to look after ourselves in a more practical way. This post will be pushed in front of his eyes as soon as possible. Brilliant and insightful as always.

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  24. I could just curl up on that couch and go to sleep!! You're right about safety and different needs as we age. My husband is 66 and just had his second knee replaced a week ago. After his first knee replacement, we saw the necessity of getting a higher commode. This is one thing that has helped tremendously and will continue to do so as we age. Twenty years ago this would never have crossed my mind. Thank you for bringing up the safety factors we may need ahead.

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  25. Hi Rhonda! Your house looks lovely! we are in our mid-50s and decluttering now that two of the children have (mostly) left home, just things like rationalising the linen and getting rid of books and clutter. our daughter in particular was ruthless with her room!

    In response to Jamie above: our previous house had aluminium windows and single glazing, even with ventilation we would get mould on the sills/frames and the curtains near the windows. In the new house with aluminium windows and double glazing: NO MOULD at all after six years.....We are in Melbourne Australia

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    1. Hi Anne
      who in Melbourne did you use for your double glazing? I am in the Outer Eastern Suburbs and have been thinking about it.
      Claire in Melbourne

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  26. Thanks for the helpful comments about double glazing. We are in NZ. It is now standard in new builds to have double glazing thank goodness. We have a lot of condensation and are getting mould on curtains near it. We air the house well and have a good heat pump.

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  27. I am 58 & partly retired so I am planning the renovation of the house I have been in for 3 years. As I think about what I might do I keep in mind that I am getting older and will need to allow for this during the renovation. No overhead cupboards in the kitchen is one idea that is looking good as is a step in shower with no raised edge.
    I love the colours you have chosen Rhonda. I am not a fan of all white kitchens and miss the nice blue kitchen I used to have. I'm having trouble looking at kitchen designs because they all seem to be displayed ad all white! First world problem I know.
    Claire in Melbourne

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  28. Your splashback and the rest of the house look great Rhonda. Clean lines and uncluttered. Just the style I like. It´s refreshing to read your plans for aging. We have had downsizing/adapting discussions for a while but now this must be our focus. My husband slipped when shovelling snow and broke his hip. My big strong helper was suddenly not able to do so much for a while. Nearly finished with rehabilitation now but this has given us so much to think of - both being in our 70s. Your articles are an inspiration.

    Best wishes from heatwave Sweden - the hottest May on record - ever!
    Ramona

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    1. Hello Ramona. I always smile when I see your name here. I'm really sorry to hear of your husband's accident. I hope he finishes his rehabilitation soon and remains accident-free. Please give him our best wishes. xx

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  29. Your kitchen looks stunning, Rhonda. I love those Scandanavian tiles. I have done several upgrades to my 1940's cottage. It makes such a difference. I think it's money well spent. You get to enjoy the improvements every day.

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  30. Your new tile is just lovely! I bet it is a real joy to be in your kitchen with such a striking change.

    We have renovated extensively over the last 3 years with the thought of moving house. We need one that is one story and way less property but it just has not happened yet. So, we just continue to keep everything updated and maintained so that we can sell if the opportunity comes up to make the move. Our area is in a state of huge growth and it is very difficult to buy another house unless you see it and put it under contract the same day it goes on the market. We know we could sell ours very quickly but finding a replacement would be very hard. So, we wait.

    My parents on the other hand are about to move at age 80. They are 40 miles from my sister who is the one in their area and it is too far for her to be of regular help to them so they bought a house just a quarter of a mile from her. This will give us all peace of mind as they grow older. They are going through the sad realization of needing to part with half of their belongings so the transition is difficult and I wish they had done this so much sooner.

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  31. Wise advice .I first did serious decluttering in preparation for future downsizing . We love our home but are not close to our children so we will move to make it easier for them as we know we will need their help at some point and don t want to be a burden. Plus we want to have more time with the grandchildren .My parents were several hours away and it was difficult to help them while working etc..
    Connie in USA

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  32. Your home is beautiful and I especially love your kitchen - well done!
    You and Hanno are so wise at being so pro-active. I have many friends who are either dealing with this issue with parents or are starting to have to think about it because of their own needs. There is a lot of frustration when dealing with parents who refuse to downsize or won't even allow clutter to be removed. It is an exhausting process. You have done your sons such a big favour.
    I am early 60's but have some mobility issues due to bad knees and RA but I am lucky in that I live in a small 1bdrm apt. that is just the right size for me. I would prefer a step in shower but have a grab bar for the tub and always use a non-skid mat. I have also been purging my stuff and simplifying my life as much as possible. Life is a series of changes & adjustments and I look upon this time as just one more opportunity.

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  33. You kitchen looks wonderful! This is such an important post! My mom's home is not optimized for her age, and so even though she can do most things on her own, she has help come in a few times a week and take care of the things she just can't reach or do. I definitely want to make sure to update my home in the future so it's ready when I need it!

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  34. Making one's house safe and accessible is just plain smart. Life can change in an instant. I have friends who are very glad that they added grab bars to the shower when they remodeled their bathroom. One of their children suffered a sports injury at the age of 11 and has used a walker since then.
    --Ave

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  35. I love your kitchen, the new blue tiles are beautiful and a real feature. With it's white cupboards and timber top, to me it has a Scandanavian feel. Thanks for sharing the photos. Lovely ideas here for our next home, which will be when we downsize and we are hoping for a more cottage style with lots of blue and white and timber.

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  36. Hilde in GermanyMay 31, 2018 2:19 pm

    I read a book by Marta Magnusson, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning,a really lovely book despite its title. It is about downsizing and not leaving your children with a lot of clutter after you have gone. This book together with my husband´s 70th birthday has really got me thinking about preparations for the years to come.
    And your home really looks lovely, Rhonda!

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    1. Hilde in GermanyJune 01, 2018 1:02 am

      It´s Margareta Magnusson

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  37. Your home looks great Rhonda and I love the words of wisdom that go along with the pictures.
    Have a wonderful weekend!

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  38. Wonderful and sensible post Rhonda. Love your new kitchen and I think the colours are gorgeous. We decided to start the process of downsizing to a granny flat several months ago and we are designing the bathroom for potential wheelchair use in the future. As we are building from scratch, we have also included doorways that allow comfortable wheelchair access. I don't think your post was morbid at all, I wish the practicalities of ageing were discussed more. There is nothing like being prepared for the worst, but hoping for the best and your post proves you can be practical as well as comfortable and stylish.

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  39. To Claire from Melbourne: The supplier was part of our overall house package, they are A & L windows. They have range of styles on their website. Another advantage of the double glazing is the considerable noise reduction...handy if you live near a busy road.

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    1. Thanks Anne. I have heard of them and yes I live right near a school and on a road that is frequently used by hoons!
      Claire in Melbourne

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  40. Rhonda and Hanno, congratulations on the beautiful way you've finished and renovated your home. I sit here nodding in agreement with you, and I know we'll need to do a bit of upgrading in the next 10 years too. I adore your choice of kitchen tiles, and the blue painted wall changes the feel of the entire room.

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  41. Oh it looks so beautiful and peaceful Rhonda! I LOVE those tiles. What a lovely place to work in. Xx

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  42. After lots of planning and hard work, a beautiful result; you and Hanno did a great job! I love the tiles - they add just the right amount of zing to your kitchen. I am thinking about aging in place issues, but analysis paralysis has set in. When I was younger I knew that I wanted to buy a house and carried on from there. The reality is, my home could have become unsuitable for me at any moment over the years for a variety of reasons, but I never worried about it. Now I feel like I have to get out ahead of every variable and make the one right decision that will work for me as I age because I know firsthand how hard it can be to cope with change as you age. So for now, I'm just working on my general to-do list regarding the house and ignoring the big picture. If I had a "head in sand" emoji I'd stick it in here! Beth in MN

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  43. I just love your blue and white tiles in your kitchen, so very pretty!

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  44. I just got back from a three week holiday visiting my daughter in the USA. Well I say a holiday, but my gosh we were busy! Updating parts of their house, and fixing and strengthening the back porch before painting it. We also planted out an orchard as she is lucky to live in a peach and blueberry growing area. I think at any age it is good to continually upgrade and improve your home. She has young children and in some cases it was important to make things safe for them. We have some things at home here that need upgrading before I retire in a couple of years, and one of those is to replace the bath with a shower. Your home looks so welcoming, I can see why you are so happy there, and I love those tiles in your kitchen.

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  45. This is something i dont think enough people consider. My mother in law wants to remove the shallow steps in front of their home but she wasnt there when my dad replaced the sloping path 20yrs ago, it was a total hazard is it got very slick and icy in winter. Keeping the steps may not be convenient for mobility but it sure out weighs a fall.

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