Aging at Home
As healthcare continues to improve, more people are living longer than ever before. As they age, most people prefer to remain in their own homes versus an elder care and assisted living facilities. Unfortunately, many of these elders live in homes that cannot meet their needs.
If you have an elderly parent, other family member, or friend who wants to “age in place,” here are five steps to make their home a better place live.
Step 1: Minimize or eliminate those steps.
Going up and down stairs is more difficult for people with poor knees and backs, muscle degeneration, and coordination issues. Imagine the toll this takes on a daily basis. Worse, imagine carrying bags of groceries or full laundry baskets!
- The main floor is key. Minimize the need to go to additional floors for daily and weekly tasks. Be sure to have the kitchen, laundry room, and master bedroom on the main floor.
- Walk-in entries without steps make life easier. This includes entries from attached garages to the home. Walk-in showers are also helpful because many accidents occur getting into and out of the tub.
Step 2: Watch the width!
- Ensure that all entrances and exits are wide enough to accommodate wheel chairs and ensure that there is enough room to install ramps.
- 32” wide doorways are the absolute minimum to accommodate a standard wheelchair. 36” is strongly preferred.
- If the home’s design or age precludes wide doorways, installing offset hinges might buy a few additional inches of space.
Step 3: Avoiding slips and falls
- Low pile carpets are great for avoiding snags and tears. The worst offenders are throw rugs; these absolutely need to be removed.
- Ensure the steps have a slip-resistant coating or paint. Carpeted runners are best avoided.
- Garage floors should have non-slip coatings, especially in wet climates.
Step 4: Prepare for declining vision and hearing
- Install a motion-sensing light at the main entry. Light closet interiors. Ensure that garage lights stay on long enough to let a slow-moving person into the house. Look for refrigerators with excellent lighting. If there is an exterior ice or water dispenser, look for models with large oversize backlit buttons.
- To help those with poor vision, stairs should have a contrasting border edge. Also use a contrasting pattern or color between flooring and countertops.
- People with hearing loss benefit from phones that have adjustable volume settings. Considering installing a large doorbell or a doorbell that also sets off lights.
Step 5: Other ideas
- Have a working phone at the bed in the bedroom in case of an emergency.
- Consider a closet organizing system (California Closers®, etc.) that lowers clothes to the person’s height.
- Get a toilet paper roll holder that only requires one hand to insert a fresh roll.
- Garages need electric openers.
- Be ready to install grab bars anywhere the person sits a lot. Bedrooms and bathrooms are a must. Grab bars are also often used in bathrooms and kitchens. All grab bars must be able to accommodate 250-300 lbs.
- Raise or lower the height of appliances like the dishwasher and clothes washer and dryer to decrease muscle fatigue from bending. Sink, counter, and cabinet heights should be adjusted, too. Consider easy pull-out drawers to eliminate stretching and reaching.
- Use D-shaped handles and pulls.
- Side-by-side refrigerator/freezer models are superior to pull-out drawers due to the need to bend and stoop to reach into the lower drawer.
Are you designing a home around someone who wants to age in place? Or would you like help in downsizing to a small house or condo with friendlier features? If so, please let me know; I’ll be happy to help!