24 Sep 2019 “Seniorizing” a Home
It is not surprising that, as we get older, we want to “age in place” – to stay in the home we know and love. To do so requires that we take stock of our home environment and make necessary changes to be able to continue to live safely and in comfort.
For a senior who has significant impairments such changes might involve major modifications such as adding a staircase chair lift, making a bathroom fully handicapped accessible and allowing pathways for a motorized wheelchair. However, there are several changes/additions that you can do for a senior (yourself or a loved one) with adequate mobility that enhance the resident’s aging in place.
One of the first steps is to ensure good lighting throughout the house. Built-in lights are easy to update to provide suitable lighting for someone who might have deteriorating vision; LED bulbs are a good choice since they are long lasting and power-efficient. Just as important is providing adequate lighting in dimmer areas of the home, such as stairways or hallways. I have purchased LED nightlights from Amazon for around $2 a light that consume very low power (under ½ watt), have photo sensors that turn off the light when the ambient light level is high enough and have plastic diffuser covers that make the light seem brighter than it is.
Any stairway in a house should have a handrail. These include short ones that are only a step or two in length, such as one that may transition to and from a hallway to a sunken living room.
Any area rugs should be tightened or affixed to a surface so that they do not slide or bunch up, which could present a significant tripping hazard.
Think about replacing traditional doorknobs on interior doors with lever-style doorknobs. These are easier to use for people who have hand mobility problems, such as arthritis. Do the same with faucets.
If not already present, install smoke and CO2 alarms in appropriate places throughout the home. The alarms on these devices should be loud enough to be heard by a senior with a hearing impairment. Modern battery-operated alarms have long battery lives (5-10 years), alert you when a battery needs replacing and cost as little as $10 – $15.
Consider having one or more voice assistants such as the Amazon Echo Dot that works with an application such as GoFind’s VoiceR and allows a senior to request help if it is needed. VoiceR is a free application for a smartphone that allows caregivers on the senior’s list to be informed if help is required.
Spend some time reducing furniture clutter throughout the home. Seniors, especially those with mobility issues, have an easier time negotiating open spaces where there is less chance of bumping into tables or chairs and stumbling.
These are just a few ideas for enhancing aging in place safely and comfortably. I have purposely left out suggestions for the kitchen and bathroom – these will be covered in a future blog.