According to research, approximately 90 percent of seniors in the U.S. want to age in their homes. While it's logical why one would want to live out their life in an environment that brings comfort and happiness, it's likely that the original home is not conducive to mobility issues and other forms of physical and mental illness. Here's what you need to know about modifying a residence from a safety perspective.
Whether you're using a wheelchair or walker, or you don't need assistance quite yet, slip-resistant floors can be a literal lifesaver. Quality product, proper installation, and maintenance are all important considerations when adding this type of modification in your home. Products to consider include non-skid mats under area rugs (or getting rid of the area rugs completely), low-pile carpeting, cork, rubber, bamboo, and laminate. Avoid natural stone and ceramic or porcelain tile, as they can be extremely slippery when wet.
Between poor vision problems that come with age or dementia, ample lighting is key to preventing a fall. Install additional fixtures in every room (especially at the entrance) but also at the entryways, hallways, and areas that are used most frequently. Other considerations include indirect, ambient lighting to prevent a glare (blinds and curtains are helpful for shielding the sun), light sources with a color rendering somewhere around 80 to aid those with yellowing vision, illuminated LED nightlight paths to the bathroom, task lighting next to busy places such as where one cooks or reads, and wireless motion sensing lights to prevent a fall if a senior forgets to flip the switch or doesn't think light is necessary.
The bathroom is a high-traffic area that needs key modifications such as an elevated toilet seat, grab bars near the toilet and shower area, a backless bench in the tub or shower (or replacing with a walk-in shower), lowering the sink for those in a wheelchair, installing a phone in case of emergencies, and adding non-skid mats in and around the tub/shower.
Improved Kitchen Accessibility
The kitchen is another hot spot that needs renovations in order to make it more accessible — especially for people in wheelchairs and/or those who cannot stand for long periods of time. With that in mind, lower the sink and cabinets and add pull-out shelves to reduce back strain, replace door and drawer handles with hardware (thin a "D" shaped pull) so that the units are easier to open and close, and replace the fridge with a model that has more lighting and storage and a freezer on the bottom for easier access.
Unless you're adding motion-detected lights, make sure there's a light switch on the top and bottom of the stairs and handrails on both sides. It's also helpful to place a chair on the landing so that there's a place to rest after a long climb. Stair chair lifts are great, but they can be rather expensive, so consider relocating to the bottom floor if this modification is too cost prohibitive.
Thanks to collapsible hinges, it's easy to widen doorways without having to do any labor-intensive construction. The addition of a wheelchair ramp at the entryway is a must for those with a chair, but it can also be helpful for those on foot, as it takes out the stress of climbing stairs. While there are pros that specialize in this project, you can also do it yourself.
In some cases, it may make more sense to move if making modifications isn't an option — especially if you have an entire top floor that's barely being utilized or you don't have the space downstairs for a bedroom. Prepare a checklist to find what you're looking for and use online filters to search for accessible homes for sale in your area. Keep in mind that accessible homes in El Dorado Hills, California, have a median listing price of $718,000.
Aging in place doesn’t have to feel like an unreachable dream. Take a look around your home, made note of the modifications you can make to ensure your safety, and get to work! The sooner you modify your home to meet your needs, the better.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
Kent Elliot is a retired architect with a passion for dogs, DIY, and universal design. After a stroke left him with mobility issues, he thought he would need to move out of his home and into an assisted living community. But, using his experience as an architect and with a little creativity, he was able to successfully remodel his family home instead. The relief he felt has inspired him to help others do the same. He created AtHomeAging.info to share what he’s learned and is currently working on a book, Aging in Place One Project at a Time: DIY Home Modifications That Don’t Require a Professional.