Tips for Improving Home Accessibility and Safety as We Age
Research from AARP finds that 73% of people ages 45 and older want to remain in their current residence as long as possible, while 90% of older adults ages 65 and older wish to do so. For many seniors, this decision is motivated at least in part by finances. With the cost of senior living on the rise – from independent living communities to assisted living and nursing homes – staying in a private home can offer substantial savings over moving to an expensive senior housing complex.
In order to age in place, however, it’s often necessary for seniors to make home modifications to ensure accessibility and safety as the activities of daily living become more challenging. Still, the cost of such modifications is often a more affordable approach than paying for care in a senior living community. These tips will help you improve home accessibility and safety:
Keep Costs Down By Hiring a Trustworthy Contractor
Some home safety improvements, such as eliminating clutter and ensuring clear walkways, can be achieved on your own. But for homes that require more extensive modifications, such as installing a bathroom on the first floor, you’ll need to hire a contractor.
Finding a trustworthy, efficient contractor is one way to keep the costs of your home modifications as low as possible. Eldercare.gov provides advice on what to look for in a contractor. The site suggests finding a contractor that is “licensed, bonded, and insured” and checking with friends and family members to get recommendations.
You might also check out consumer review pages to find quality contractors in your area. As the YP page for Massachusetts roofer, Duval Roofing, shows, it and similar sites offer an easy way to see what other customers have to say about area contractors.
Technology such as medical alert systems and remote monitoring tools can facilitate better communication between family, caregivers, and healthcare providers to keep aging adults safer in their homes.
For older seniors, technology adoption may be initiated by a family member but is typically well-received. The Merrill Lynch-Age Wave survey found that 76% of retirees “are interested in technologies to monitor their health at home such as sensors, alerts or medication reminder apps,” and 64 percent expressed interest “in home technologies that connect them with family and friends, such as video chat and interactive devices.”
Install Hand Rails and Grab Bars
One in three older adults experiences a fall each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additionally, one in five falls causes a serious injury, such as a broken bone or head injury, making falls a major risk to the health and safety of older adults who choose to age in place.
Installing hand holds in key areas is a great way to protect against falls. Ensuring that existing hand rails are sturdy in stairways can help to prevent accidents on the stairs, and installing grab bars in other areas where older adults are prone to falls – such as in the bathroom – can help seniors safely enter and exit the bath tub or shower. Other modifications, such as the use of non-skid surfaces in the shower and installing carpeting on stairs, can also help to reduce the likelihood of trips and falls.
Ensure Adequate Lighting
Poor lighting is another issue that can increase the likelihood of slips and falls. But dim lighting can also lead to other accidents, such as turning the stove top temperature too high or taking the wrong medication. Check light bulbs throughout the home and use the maximum wattage safe for use with light fixtures. In some homes, particularly older homes without many built-in lighting options, adding light fixtures to areas that are generally dim can also improve visibility.
The National Institutes of Health suggests that each room, entryways, and outdoor walkways should be well-lit, as well as stairways, ideally with light switches at both the top and bottom of the stairs. Nightlights should be placed in the bathroom, hallways, bedrooms, and kitchen. Make sure that lamps are easily accessible on either side of the bed, and store a flashlight in an easily accessible bedside area for quick access in an emergency or power outage.
With more older adults choosing to remain in their own homes as long as possible, more resources are becoming available to facilitate safe aging in place. Advancements in technology allowing for remote monitoring and care-giving, innovative safety adaptions for the home, and financial assistance options for seniors who require more extensive home modifications are just a few of the options that today’s seniors can take advantage of to live safely and happily in their own homes long into their golden years.
Angela Tollersons is a former business owner turned full-time mom. The mother of a son on the autism spectrum, she truly believes that every family is special in their own way. She started ForFamilyHealth.net with her husband to provide parents a resource for information, ideas, and inspiration on giving children of all abilities healthy and happy lives. Angela lives in the ’burbs of North Carolina and is an active member of PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center and Parents Helping Parents.