There’s a concept that has become well-known as of late called “aging in place.” Instead of sending a person to a senior home, the idea is that they could and should stay in their own home for as long as possible, hence “aging in place.” There are quite a few home improvements that can be done to cope with the aging process in a way that makes aging in place feasible.
As people age, their mobility, strength and range-of-motion is likely to deteriorate. What can be done to adjust things in a home to make it easier for them to move around and live comfortably?
Ways to Help Elderly Persons “Age-In-Place”
Oftentimes, it’s little, positive changes that make all the difference. Something as simple as adding grab bars to the shower can improve an older person’s everyday life. What’s a big problem with older people? Falls. One fall could turn into a broken hip, which makes life quite difficult. Moreover, many older people have problems keeping their balance. Their muscle mass isn’t what it used to be. Perhaps diabetes has interfered with the ability to feel sensations in their feet as they walk. Add in arthritis, osteoporosis, blurry vision, and dizziness, and it makes sense to redesign a home in such a way that it’s tailor-made for those who have a harder time “getting around.” Indeed, if you’re going to make a home more accessible for older people, it benefits everyone– from kids to visitors– the safer it is to maneuver around a house, the better!
For older people, it makes sense to have everything on one floor so they don’t have to go up and down stairs. If that’s not feasible, a home improvement could include the installation of an elevator or chairlift. Better yet, perhaps things could be consolidated on the main floor– a first-floor full bath and bedroom, for example, would be best for most people.
Most older homes have fairly narrow doorways around 24 inches wide. If possible, consider having doorways widened to 32 inches or more, in order to accommodate things like wheelchairs and walkers.
In the bathroom, curbless showers that include both textured grab bars and a convenient sitting bench make sense. Inside the shower, recessed shelves can be incorporated such that shampoo and soap is at arm’s level. This way, a person doesn’t have to reach down or up for their stuff. As for the toilet, consider changing to one that’s taller-than-average and adding a grab bar to make it easier for a person to use it. Where is the toilet paper holder currently? Is it super easy to access? For many people, it’s not (surprising, right?)… so something as simple as relocating the toilet paper holder so that it’s easily reached from the seated position is definitely a home improvement.
Don’t Forget the Kitchen
Besides the bathroom, people spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Standing on tile for long periods of time can be taxing, especially for those with hip or back pain. Instead, why not replace tile with vinyl or linoleum, as they’re softer on the feet? Meanwhile, it makes sense to add more seating options to a kitchen for older people who would rather sit awhile than stand. Did you know there are motorized, adjustable height counters/sinks available? These work well for people in wheelchairs.
Think of how a person in a wheelchair sees the world, and plan for that… for example, a side-by side refrigerator with its double doors would be easier to use than one that’s top and bottom doored. Instead of having a microwave placed over an oven, it’s easier to use when it’s on the countertop. Lights under cabinets can help people see things better than just having overhead lighting. A well-lit room is important for older people, and anytime contrasting colors can be used to indicate where edges begin and end (such as on countertops), that’s a good idea as well.
Oftentimes people rely on just one light source per room, but for those aging in place, the more light options, the better. Many people like adding several recessed lights to a room to properly brighten it up.
Since stairs can be challenging, consider replacing steps with a gentle-slope ramp wherever possible. This is especially helpful for people using wheelchairs.
Reynolds Home Builders of Tallahassee, Florida, can help redesign and improve a home that’s ready for “aging in place.” Please call 850-508-5076 to discuss your needs today!