Hello everyone! While I am finishing up my book, Kent Elliot has graciously agreed to give us the scoop on Aging in Place. Many of us want to stay at home during our golden years, and these modifications can make this a safe alternative. Enjoy!
Safe at Home: Easy Accessibility Modifications for the Elderly
Senior citizens are the most vulnerable group of individuals when it comes to at-home accidents. According to Harvard University, the chance of dying from a home-based accident, such as a fall down the stairs, rises at the age of 65. By the age of 75, seniors are four times more likely to succumb to injuries. Although not all accidents can be prevented, there are steps you can take to keep yourself – or an aging loved one – safe.
Slipping and falling is the greatest danger in the bathroom, as hard floors and soap and water don’t mix well. There are a few options to help you maintain an independent hygiene routine. A walk in bathtub, curbless shower, and shower seat will allow you to bathe with a lowered risk. Even with these modifications, grab bars installed by the tub and toilet will give you the added leverage you need to stand safely. A toilet seat extender will make it easier to stand and sit.
The kitchen is also a dangerous place. Heat from the stove, difficult-to-read dials, the potential for slippery surfaces, and sharp objects may be difficult to navigate if your vision has seen better days. Set your hot water heater to less than 120 degrees and install easy-to-pull handles on the drawers and cabinets. Keep knives inside the cabinets and add a slip-resistant mat in front of the sink and dishwasher.
Depending on your budget, you have a few options on how to safely navigate stairs. A stair lift and elevator are the best alternatives but can cost $10,000 and $30,000 respectively. U.S. News & World Report explains these are projects best installed by professionals, which can add to the cost. If that’s not within your budget, add handrails to both sides of the stairway and install lights that you can control from either end. Avoid heavily patterned carpet and ensure any coverings provide a non-slip surface.
The living room, as well as other open areas, should have consistent flooring. Flooring industry entrepreneur Debbie Gartner recommends engineered vinyl planks, which can be used in the kitchen and are underlaid with cork to provide some cushioning in the event of a fall. This type of flooring is fairly easy to install and will last for many years.
Avoid area rugs throughout the home, especially in the bedroom where you are more likely to move around in the middle of the night. Install lights in the closet – this can be a battery-operated peel-and-stick light switch or a hard-wired ceiling light. Electrical cords should be kept off the floor, preferably mounted to the wall. HuffPost offers 11 ideas for hiding cords and wires to keep them out your way.
Unless you live in a condominium, you’ll also need to take steps to keep yourself safe outdoors. If you have steep stairs to navigate, consider adding a wheelchair ramp. Prevent wandering by installing a gate around the perimeter of the property. This will also keep you safe from stray dogs. Remove flower bed edging, as this can cause a tripping hazard, and make sure any holes or sharp dips in the lawn are leveled out. Consider installing a rear-door mailbox to keep from standing in the street to get your mail. The Architect’s Guide recommends the MailMaster Plus by Step 2.
Choosing a New Home
The vast majority of these repairs are inexpensive and simple to complete. However, if the idea of retrofitting your entire home is daunting, there are plenty of properties available that are more easily customizable. In Irvine, California, for example, the median list price is $999,000, and homes come and go quickly. To expedite your search and get ahead of other buyers, search for properties online and use available filters to eliminate houses and condominiums that don’t fit your needs or budget.
As you get older, a lot of things in your home become potential dangers. If you don’t want to move to an accessible home, make some easy modifications to your current property to keep you safe for the years ahead.
Image via Pixabay