Home Modifications for Aging in Place - By Paul Deniken
The concept of aging in place is all about planning and preparing to be independent no matter what health issues or other concerns you may have during your senior years. While it can be overwhelming to think about all the things that need to be done to a home to make it safe and accommodating, there are actually several small things you can do to ensure your home will be a comfortable, inviting place well into your golden years.
One of the first things to do when you’re thinking of modifying your home is to go from room to room and take a look at things like stairs, doorway widths, and space to see what will work and what won’t. For some, downsizing to a smaller home is sometimes necessary; this could be due to having too many rooms to take care of, too much outdoor upkeep, or simply because money is tighter.
If you do decide to stay in your own home, here are some of the best tips for making it as safe and comfortable as possible.
Your home will need to have adequate space for you to move around safely should you need a wheelchair or walker in the future. This includes doorways that are wide enough to accommodate these items, kitchen space big enough for you to turn around in, and living spaces that are free of clutter or a lot of furniture. Living rooms and bedrooms shouldn’t be packed full of belongings but should be open and airy to prevent falls and injury.
Flooring should be flat and sturdy, so hardwood, laminate, or tile is preferable. If your home is carpeted, make sure the carpet is in good shape and has no bare spots; throw rugs should be eliminated if possible, as they can cause falls with turned-up corners or slippery backs. If you decide to keep rugs in your home, they should be equipped with a non-slip backing.
Lighting should be added if your home has dark corners and closets, in part to prevent falls but also to help you find things more easily. Natural light is great, especially if you have a vision impairment, so open up those curtains or use light bulbs that simulate sunlight.
Add battery-operated wall fixtures to closets and pantries to illuminate these dim areas, and place floor lamps in reading areas and at landings.
Stairs can be difficult for seniors to navigate safely, especially if they are carpeted or steep. If your home has a staircase, consider installing a lift or elevator. These modifications can be pricey and require an experienced contractor, but it may be worth it to you to be able to stay in your own home. You can use an online search tool to find contractors and price quotes in your town or city.
Bathrooms can be tricky for seniors, in part because of the danger of falls. Make sure the bathtub has a non-slip rubber mat and also place one on the floor. Showers should have a grab bar and, if your home has a landline, consider adding a phone in this room placed low in case of a fall.
If you’re a senior and would like to stay in your home, it’s likely you’re going to have to make some modifications. With the right adaptations and some preparation, you can enjoy aging in place and living comfortably in your home.