The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define aging in place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level.” Sounds like a great idea! Over time, however, physical and mental conditions can make aging in place at home difficult and may require structural modifications to increase safety. Before deciding to continue aging in place at home or move to a senior living community, take the time to assess what a home needs to accommodate an older adult now and into the future.
Getting around, even in the familiar setting of a family home, can become harder as we age, so taking a look at floors is mandatory for aging in place safely. Start by eliminating trip hazards by replacing area rugs with carpeting or wood or laminate floors that are easy to walk or roll on. Next remove throw rugs or replace them with low-pile, non-slip versions that stay in place. Find out more about the pros and cons of flooring in thespruce.com blog, “The Best Flooring Options for Aging Adults.”
For homes with bedrooms upstairs, ascending and descending stairs present another potential safety hazard. Make sure every stair step is sound and that carpet or rugs are secure to minimize fall risks or, better yet, install a stairlift so climbing is no longer an issue. And homes with washers and dryers in the basement are equally problematic so creating a first-floor laundry is a good idea.
Older adults face a variety of risks in the kitchen so doing a safety overhaul is essential for aging in place at home. First is fire hazards, so a smoke detector and a senior-friendly fire extinguisher like those described in the grayingwithgrace.com article, “Finding An Easy To Use Fire Extinguisher For The Elderly” should be in place. If the stove is gas it’s also a good idea to have a gas detector nearby as well or to replace an older stove with one that shuts off automatically. It is also helpful to rearrange cupboards to eliminate the need to climb to reach often-used items.
Keep in mind that the kitchen is especially dangerous for older adults with memory problems so it may be necessary to remove items like sharp knives and appliances like blenders. It also may be wise to unplug stoves and microwaves that could cause burn injuries.
A well-lit home is another key to safe aging in place at home. While many older homes have decorative lighting that worked fine for years, changes should be made to accommodate eye changes that occur naturally in seniors.
Start with making the most of natural light by rearranging furniture toward windows, then relocate lamps to places where the resident spends time reading or doing other activities. Next look at ways to increase the light in each room and hallway (don’t forget the kitchen and bath) by adding new lighting or using higher watt light bulbs. For an in-depth look at the whys and hows of lighting for aging in place, check out the lampsusa.com blog, “30 Lighting Tips for Seniors”.
Increasing accessibility is another step toward safely aging in place at home. For example, bathrooms are often dangerous simply because they lack handrails for support by the toilet and in the shower. For older adults with mobility concerns, installation of a flat-entry, walk-in shower with a seat may be needed, rather than a slippery step-in shower-tub combination.
Also check all railings on steps and stairs to be sure they are secure and add new ones when needed. Another helpful change is to replace round knobs and handles with bar handles to make them easier to grasp and turn. And if a senior is in a wheelchair or uses a walker, adding ramps to outside entrances is also essential to accessibility when aging in place at home. For a complete list of ways to make aging in place at home safer, AARP’s “HomeFit Guide” is an excellent resource.
Of course, these and other changes can easily be accomplished with a move to a senior living community like Thrive Senior Living. Designed and built just for older adults, our communities already meet strict safety, security, and accessibility requirements, but also offer luxury housing, delicious chef-prepared meals, daily activities and events, and amenities seniors can’t get when aging in place at home. In addition, moving to a senior living community offers peace of mind knowing that you don’t have to worry about your loved ones being on their own.