An overwhelming majority of older Americans want to remain in their homes for as long as possible. Aging-in-place refers to just that: staying in one’s own home as one ages. As we age, safety and mobility become the main issues to consider when thinking of remaining in our current homes.
There are many modifications that can enable you to stay living in the beloved family home. Hallways may need to be widened, ramps installed and kitchens and bathrooms redesigned. Evaluate your current living environment by examining all of the major areas of you home including entry ways, bathrooms, bedrooms, and the kitchen. In addition to modifications discussed below, proper lighting is the key to avoiding accidents in and around the home.
The entry to your home is your connection to the rest of the world. It is important for receiving guests, for bringing in the groceries, for getting to appointments and for getting out to social events. It should be safe and convenient regardless of the time of day, the weather conditions and your physical condition.
Barrier-free entryways make it easier for you or a family member who uses a wheelchair or a walker to safely come and go from your home.
An accessible walkway leading to the front entrance should have no steps and very little, if any, slope to accommodate someone who uses a wheelchair or has trouble climbing steps. A ramp is another type of no-step entry.
To eliminate a common tripping hazard, entryways leading into the home and into each room should not be divided by a raised threshold.
Installing a garage lift enables someone who uses a wheelchair, or has problems climbing steps, to gain access from the garage to the inside of the home.
This is an important room on which to focus when considering aging-in-place modifications. Your bathroom should be safe and convenient to enable you to use the shower and toilet facilities without risking a fall. Even minor modifications, such as the addition of grab bars in the shower and near the toilet, can greatly increase ease-of-use and safety. Other changes to consider: a roll-in shower with multiple shower heads (a height-adjustable, hand-held and a fixed); lower bathroom sink; or an elevated toilet.
Changes that enhance the use of the bedroom included ensuring there is ample maneuvering clearance around furniture, building a walk-in closet with storage at differing heights and installing rocker light switches that are quicker and easier to turn on compared to a more common flip switch.
There are many modifications that allow you to retain the use of your kitchen. Consider the following items when assessing your kitchen:
- Ample Maneuvering Space
- Varied Countertop Heights
- Sink with Knee Clearance (Wheelchair Accessibility)
- Raised Dishwasher
- Lower Cooking Surfaces
- Wall Oven and/or Microwave Oven at Reachable Heights
- Storage Space within Reach
- Desk or Work Area with Knee Clearance
One of the most important factors to reduce accidents in the home is to ensure there is proper lighting where you need it. Outdoor areas, stairways, the kitchen, living room and hallways are just of few examples where proper lighting is most needed.
Use rocker-type light switches wherever possible. You can turn them on and off with the touch of an elbow, even if your hands are full.
These are some considerations and possibilities to make a home safe and comfortable as one ages. For more information about aging in place, visit our website.