Aging in Place: Creating a Senior-Friendly Home
When we talk about aging in place, it’s not just about affordability (allowing seniors to stay in their communities post-retirement); it’s about retrofitting the home to ensure elderly homeowners or occupants are comfortable and safe. By allowing seniors to keep much of their independence either in their own home, or through a multigenerational living situation, they can enjoy the true comforts of home and a better quality of life.
That said, as one’s health deteriorates, needs change. Rather than moving an elderly loved one to a retirement home or long-term care facility right away, you can install the necessary mobility aids to keep the house safe.
A curbless shower is exactly what it sounds like: a shower without a curb. This means one simply walks (or wheels) in, rather than stepping in. While to those in the healthy, mobile population a small step may seem like nothing, to some seniors it may as well be a mountain.
These showers can also be large and spacious, so that occupants can wheel in or use a shower chair.
For seniors who use mobility aids, such as walkers or wheelchairs, narrow doorways and entrances can be problematic. When possible, widen these passageways to ensure seniors can get around the house safely.
Today’s homes feature more open concept living spaces, so it’s not unfashionable to take down walls in an older home if necessary. In places where walls cannot come down, doorways can be widened by a few inches to allow for easier access.
In addition to mobility issues, many seniors suffer from low vision. Our eyesight can deteriorate as we age, so it’s crucial to keep a bright, well-lit home. Switch to bright, energy-efficient bulbs to illuminate all possible hazards. Overhead lighting is important — so consider adding pot lights to the ceiling in key places to light the way.
You should also change all light switches to the larger rocker style, as these are easier to turn on and off. You may want to lower the switches as well, so that wheelchair users can reach them unassisted.
When choosing a flooring style, go with a smooth surface, but not overly slippery. You want seniors with wheelchairs, walkers and canes to be able to move unobstructed.
Avoid using too many floor mats and area rugs, which can be tripping hazards. Wheelchairs don’t glide well over carpeting, either, so be mindful of that. You want smooth transitions from room to room — especially washrooms.
Grab bars and railings
Install grab bars in key areas to assist with mobility. This allows elderly residents to perform regular tasks independently. This also restores dignity and privacy. The bathroom is a key area for these aids. Grab bars in the shower/bathtub and near the toilet are crucial for seniors with limited mobility.
Also, make sure all staircases (even small sets of steps) have railings.
Low (but not too low) shelving
When it comes to storage solutions, you need to take the Goldilocks approach and get it just right. When items are too high, many seniors can’t reach them without getting onto a precarious step stool (not the safest idea). On the flip side, when items are too low, they have to bend over to reach them, which can be difficult for those with mobility issues, back and joint pain or high blood pressure. Include shelving and storage that’s somewhere in the middle so that seniors don’t have to strain themselves to get what they need.
These are just a few examples of things you can change or add to the home to ensure loved ones can age in place. You can rest assured that family members will be safe in the home and seniors can enjoy more years of independence and comfort at home during those twilight years.