Evidence Summary

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Home adaptations shown to improve quality of living in later life

Powell J, Mackintosh S, Bird E, Ige J, Garrett H Roys M. The role of home adaptations in improving later life London: Centre for Ageing Better; 2017.

Review question

      How effective are home adaptations for improving the quality of life of older adults?


      Living in a suitable home is crucially important as one ages. Good housing and age-friendly environments help people to stay warm, safe and healthy, while remaining close to those who make up their social circle.

      The majority of older people in England live in mainstream housing, which often has small room sizes, steep internal stairs, and baths rather than showers. As individuals age, these home features can become increasingly difficult to manage and compromise the safety of the older adults.

      Adapting the home can increase the usability of the home environment and enable older adults to maintain their independence for as long as possible. This has the potential of reducing the risk of falls and other accidents, relieve pressures on emergency services, and delay the need for residential care.

      The aim of this review is to assess the effectiveness of home adaptations for improving later life for older adults.

How the review was done

      Review authors conducted a detailed search of research databases for articles published between January 2000 and December 2016.

      These articles and reports were screened for relevance and were then critically appraised and scored for quality.

      A total of 2,572 articles were retrieved from the initial search, of which 60 were included in this review. 

What the researchers found

      Review authors found strong evidence that minor home adaptations are effective and cost-effective interventions for improving performance of everyday activities, preventing falls and injuries, and improving mental health among older adults.

      Although major adaptations have been less extensively studied, the evidence shows that they can also support older adults achieve positive outcomes in some circumstances.

      In addition, there is strong evidence suggesting that minor adaptations are particularly effective at reducing injury risk when they are combined with other repairs and home improvements such as improving lighting and removing tripping hazards.

      Although studies have shown that delays in installing adaptations can reduce their effectiveness, many people put off installing adaptations until they reach a point of crisis to avoid prematurely medicalizing their home.


      This review provided evidence that both minor and major home adaptations can improve many outcomes for older adults living at home.

      Adaptations can be especially effective when they are in line with people’s personal goals, are done in combination with other necessary repairs, and are delivered in a timely manner.

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DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (

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