If you are like a lot of older Americans, you probably think you will age in place at home and just take one day at a time. But time goes by quickly and a home that was once perfectly safe can pose a variety of risks to seniors.
Unlike in a senior living community, aging in place at home can be much more difficult and dangerous than many people realize, until it’s too late. When considering whether aging in place at home or in a senior living community is the smartest move, consider the following.
Among the many changes that occur with aging are those involving the eyes. Glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, dry eyes, and macular degeneration are possibilities as well as the overall impacts of time on our eyes that causes them to perceive less light. That’s why lighting is excellent in senior living communities and should be first on the list when aging in place at home.
To help light the way, an overhaul of lighting should be considered so that every room and space is well and uniformly lit. Among the many options are maximizing natural light by opening drapes and shades, installing overhead lighting in the living room and bedrooms, and under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen. Also check lights in entrances, stairs, and hallways and use higher watt bulbs in lamps and lights in areas where reading or other eye-intensive activities take place. If necessary, hire an electrician to reposition light switches so they are easy to reach and use.
For more lighting ideas, the bestmobilityaids.com article, “Lighting Tips for Improved Senior Living and Safety,” is a great resource.
Kitchens present many opportunities to improve safety for aging in place starting with slip and skid-free flooring to minimize fall risks. It’s also helpful to consider changes like accessible counters, cabinets and pantries that make it easy to reach items without using a step stool. Other great options are installing a wall-mounted oven and side-by side refrigerator/freezer that eliminate the need to bend and lift. Also helpful is making the kitchen as open as possible so seniors with mobility concerns can move safely without bumping into things or tripping. More about safe kitchens is available in the aginginplace.com article “Kitchen Of The Future: Remodeling For Comfortable Aging In Place.”
One thing you will notice right away in senior living communities is that floors are easy to negotiate and obstruction free, and so too should be floors at home when aging in place. This may mean removing rugs and installing low pile carpeting or hardwood or laminate flooring on stairs and in bedrooms, living rooms and dens, and replacing cold, hard tile in the bathroom and kitchen with something a little softer like vinyl or linoleum.
Keep in mind the type of cleaning and upkeep required and consult thespruce.com article, “The Best Flooring Options for Aging Adults” for more pros and cons.
Falls in the bathroom are among the most common reasons for senior injuries. Very few family homes have all the bathroom safety features that are designed into bathrooms in senior living communities. Making necessary improvements is possible, but sometimes costly.
Start with the tub/shower which is both slippery and difficult to access for many seniors aging in place. The best solution is to replace it with a walk-in shower or tub with a seat and built-in grab bars, or at minimum to have grab bars installed as well as non-slip mats inside and outside of the tub.
To make using the toilet safer, install a raised toilet seat or lift as well as grab bars to help seniors get up and down safely.
Find out more possibilities in the seniorsmobility.com article, “Bathroom Safety for Elderly (2022): 7 Tips to Prevent Falls & Injury.”
Aging in place often means more open space is needed to move safely about the home, which is why modern senior living communities are so open and airy. To accommodate walkers and wheelchairs in the home however, doorways may need to be widened, furniture repositioned or removed, and clear unobstructed pathways created so seniors can move about freely. In older homes with smaller rooms, this may require hiring a professional to remove walls to create an open floor plan.
To experiment with different floor plan possibilities, try one of the software programs listed in the fixthephoto.com article, “12 Best Free Floor Plan Software.”
Senior living care options are better than ever before and at Thrive Senior Living, our goal is to serve and care for each individual with compassion and respect. To learn more, download our Senior Living Options guide. Learn more about Thrive’s communities, housing choices and amenities by contacting us today!