In early adulthood, “home” isn’t much more than where you sleep and shower. That’s because most people are a lot more adaptable, vibrant, and adventurous when they are in their twenties. But as we grow older, home becomes a sacred place where everything is familiar and we feel most protected.
That’s the reason many senior citizens would prefer to remain in their homes instead of relocating to a retirement center. Elderly advocates call this trend “aging-in-place,” and it’s a viable option for many seniors who aren’t suffering from significant illness or disease.
Part of the aging-in-place movement is to make the homes of elderly people more secure, accommodating, and “senior-friendly.” Here are some suggestions on how to accomplish that.
- Minimize floor coverings. Decorative accents like throw rugs and runners can sometimes be tripping hazards for elderly residents (especially if they use walkers). Removing these from the floor can help reduce the risk of falls.
- Placing floor mats. That said, seniors are even more likely to slip on a wet floor. Putting floor mats near entryways, in bathrooms, and near kitchen sinks can keep moisture off of slick tile or wood flooring.
- Putting in handrails. Installing sturdy metal or wooden guide rails near toilets, in bathtubs, and around steps and stairs will give seniors a convenient method of keeping their balance.
- Improving lighting. Many seniors have trouble seeing even without the added hindrance of low lighting. Replacing dim, low-wattage bulbs with brighter CFL or LED bulbs can help.
- Organizing cords. Some houses have electrical, audio, or computer cords strewn haphazardly in trafficked areas just waiting to trip someone. That’s why it’s wise to bundle those cords and move them out of harm’s way.
- Rethinking cabinets. It can be tough for elderly people to reach up, down, or inside an out-of-the-way cabinet to get what he or she needs. Solutions include building easy-to-reach cabinets or moving commonly-used items to the front of existing cabinets.
- Widening doorways. Though this isn’t always practical with existing homes, increasing the width of doorways to accommodate wheelchairs may be necessary for disabled seniors.
- Adjusting closet rods. Most closet rods are hung high up to maximize clothing storage space. But since high rods can make it harder for seniors to reach their garments, lowering them a foot or two can make a huge difference.
- Raising toilets. These days, many new commodes are being built to “chair-height” so that the user can sit higher up. Swapping out existing toilets with chair-height models will make an elderly person’s life much easier.
- Changing bathtubs into showers. It’s a significant remodeling project, but one that can make bathing safer for seniors. Installing walk-in showers in place of hard-to-enter bathtubs can decrease bathroom fall risks.
- Rethinking entryways. For front, back, and garage-entry doors, consider putting in a no-step threshold to minimize tripping risks. A ramp may even be necessary for elderly people who are wheelchair-bound.
- Installing lifts. There are several models of automated chair lifts that can be placed near steps or stairs so elderly residents don’t have to worry about falling while ascending or descending.
The Centers for Disease Control says that falls are the most common cause of injury among people 65 years and older. If an elderly person suffers a severe fall or similar accident in the home, he or she could be injured enough to where permanent care in a medical facility or nursing home would be required. But taking all possible precautions to make a home more navigable and less dangerous can minimize the chances of seniors being forced to leave their homes due to poor health.
Written by Chris Martin