Home safety is a priority regardless of age, but it becomes more than that for seniors who wish to age in place. Many seniors would prefer to remain independent for as long as possible. If you or someone you love falls into this category, keep reading for insight on the most effective home modifications for seniors with age-related impairments.
Prior to making any changes to the home, it’s important to evaluate your current and potential future needs, starting with the rooms you frequent most. Make a list of potential issues and ways you believe problems can be solved. This could be something as simple as moving furniture around to create an easily navigable path. If this is the case, consider whether you should hire professionals to help rearrange the furniture for you, and you can start by looking online for prices, customer reviews, and testimonials. Although moving furniture might seem like a very simple task, you can easily hurt your back if you’re not doing it correctly.
DIY home modifications
Some of the most effective home modifications are also ones you can do yourself. In the bathroom, consider installing grab bars and a shower seat to make getting in and out of the bath less dangerous. Non-slip mats and additional safety bars near the toilet will also help. The bedroom is another area where a few simple accessories can have a big impact. Consider adding motion sensitive night lights so you’re never in the dark for those late-night bathroom breaks. If getting up and down out of bed has become difficult, bed railings will give you something to hold onto until you find your balance.
When arthritis has made it difficult to grasp twistable door knobs, switch these out with lever-style ones, which don’t require the same level of manual dexterity. Your home’s light switches may also be changed from flip-style to push button controls, which are easier on the hands.
One of the biggest concerns for seniors living alone is falling. Cords, throw rugs, and low-lying furniture are all unnecessary obstacles that should be relocated for safety. ParentGiving.com also recommends removing clutter from counters, tables, and closets so you’ll have easy access to the items you use the most.
Depending on the style of home or condominium where you live, you may need to make permanent modifications that will allow you to maneuver safely throughout both the interior and exterior. Doors should be at least 36 inches wide, and your stairs should be outfitted with secure handrails and stair lights. The AARP’s HomeFit Guide also lists senior-friendly step thresholds as an important aspect in a senior-friendly home.
Advanced home modifications that should be handled by a contractor include installing a wheelchair ramp at your home’s main entrance if you have trouble walking up stairs. Interior stairs may also be fitted with a chair lift.
Communication with family members is paramount to senior independence. Your home should be wired with a smoke and carbon monoxide alarm and also with advanced security features, including a voice-activated or one-touch medical emergency alert. According to Consumer Reports, the best medical alert system will be tailored to your specific needs. For instance, if you have sensitive or frail skin, you should be given a lanyard (instead of a wrist strap) with an alert button that can immediately contact emergency services for help. Smart home products will also enhance your safety and enjoyability of your home well into your golden years. These products, including Google Home and Amazon Echo, will allow you to control lights and other connected devices using nothing but your voice.
Home modifications can be cost prohibitive, especially if you don’t qualify for governmental assistance. If you want to age in place but don’t have the time or budget to devote to altering your current residence, you may also wish to consider searching for an accessible home. There may be homes in your area that have already been outfitted with many safety features that will enhance your independence and quality of life.