Aging in Place, Part 2: Making Your Home Safer & More Age-Friendly

Aging in Place, Part 2: Making Your Home Safer & More Age-Friendly

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In last week’s article, we began discussing the ways in which homes can be made more age-friendly. With the right home modifications, most living spaces can be made far more accommodating for senior living. For those who would prefer staying in their current home for the long-term future, making these aging in place modifications can drastically improve the safety and usability of their living space. 


Read last week’s article for our first round of aging in place suggestions. The following are just a few more tips for making your home a better place to grow old in!



Light Up Your Life


Improving the lighting in your home is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to make your home less hazardous. Did you know that adults over the age of 75 may require up to four times as much light as young adults in order to see as effectively? For those with dementia, having a well-lit home can also reduce feelings of anxiety and paranoia. 


Switch out all of your incandescent, halogen, and CFL bulbs for LED light bulbs. LEDs often burn for up to 50,000 hours, which is 10 to 50 times longer than most other types of light bulbs. Even when used for 12 hours a day, these bulbs can last for a decade or more! By installing LED bulbs once, you can ensure that you won’t have to be getting up on a ladder every few months to replace burnt-out bulbs. Seeing better and staying safe in the future is worth the investment now!



Give Your Bed a Boost


Many older adults suffer from sleeping difficulties. Some experience more aches and pains throughout the night, whereas others struggle with insomnia or sleep apnea. Consider investing in a bed and mattress that will continue serving you well as you age. Perhaps a bed closer to the ground would be easier to get into each night. A mattress or bed frame that can be raised or lowered at the head or feet may also be beneficial for some. Some beds have adjustable firmness levels, and others even offer massage features. Though ordering a new bed can be a costly investment, it is important to remember how much time you spend asleep each night. A safe, comfortable bed that allows you to rest well is worth the extra cost. 



Look at Landscaping


For many homeowners, the most tiresome part of maintaining a residence is tending to the home’s exterior. Consider researching the many ways in which you could make the exterior of your home easier to tend to. Invest in durable, low-upkeep exterior materials such as vinyl siding and metal roofing. Consider planting slow-growing, native plants around your home. Invest in a time-activated sprinkler system and hire a lawn care service to tend to your trees, shrubs, bushes, and grass. If you have gravel paths or other such walkways leading up to your home, consider replacing them with paved sidewalk. If you have an older sidewalk leading up to your home, tend to it. Fix any cracks, deal with uneven edges, and eliminate any moss or weeds sprouting up in between the sidewalk slabs. By making the exterior of your home easier to maintain and outsourcing further maintenance to lawn care workers, you can save yourself from additional effort in the future.



Consider Safety in an Emergency Situation


Though you might not have to physically modify your home to ensure your safety in an emergency situation, it is important to think about how you would handle an emergency that might occur in your home. Consider having a cell phone or emergency button system on you at all times. If you prefer having a landline phone, be sure to have a phone available in each room of your home. In contrast to residing in an assisted living home, aging in place tends to involve less contact with caretakers and helpers. For this reason, it is particularly important to ensure that you can contact emergency services in case of a crisis or accident.



Build a Better Bathroom


Bathrooms can be some of the most dangerous rooms in the home. Filled with hard and slippery surfaces, accidents often occur in the bathroom. Consider your current bathtub set-up. A conventional bathtub is usually a bad option for aging in place. If you want to keep your tub, be sure to install sturdy grab bars around your tub. Install an extendable showerhead, and consider using a shower chair to prevent falls. Use rubber mats to prevent slippage both inside and outside the tub.If possible, consider replacing your conventional bathtub with a safer alternative. A walk-in shower is often more practical for seniors. If you would prefer taking baths, perhaps a walk-in tub would be a better option for you. Consider checking the temperatures of the water in your home, too. If your water tends to get scalding hot, adjust the settings so that this is no longer the case. As we age, our ability to sense high temperatures can be muted, making us more likely to burn ourselves. By changing these settings now, you can keep yourself safe in the future.


Don’t be shy about modifying your toilet, too. A raised toilet seat, for instance, can be one of the best ways to reduce the pain associated with conditions like arthritis and joint pain. Lower your bathroom sink if necessary, and replace conventional bathroom cabinets with more open and accessible shelving. Transparent doors with pull handles instead of knobs can make it easier to access your bathroom toiletries.


By making your bathroom safe and accessible, you can prevent yourself from avoidable slips and falls.



Consider Your Kitchen


Many of us have a packed kitchen area. While renovating a kitchen for the long-term future, it is important to consider how kitchen appliances, cutlery, dishes, and food can all be made more easily accessible. Consider replacing conventional cabinets with pull-out drawers and shelving. Pull-out shelving will bring the contents of your shelves into the light, making it easier to find what you need with minimal rummaging and strain. Replace knobs with easy-to-grab handles, and consider adding transparent doors to upper cabinets to make it easier to see what is stored in them.


If your stove-top is outdated, consider getting a stove with electric burners, front-facing controls, and light indicators showing when the surface is hot. To prevent yourself from straining while preparing food, consider setting up a seated workspace where you can prepare meals without having to bend over. Doing so will reduce the strain on your knees, back, and neck. If bending over is an issue for you, see if appliances like your oven and dishwasher can be raised for easier access. Make the most of your space so that it is easy to navigate. By doing so, you’ll be able to continue using your kitchen with ease.



Focus on Your Finances


Aging in place home renovations are often costly. Though the aforementioned recommendations could easily cost thousands of dollars, it is important to note that these modifications are likely cheaper than the cost of moving into an assisted living facility. Even so, it is important to consider the costs before beginning the home modification process. Do you have savings that you can use? If not, would you be willing to take out a loan? Consider whether or not there are any local resources available for elderly homeowners. If you know someone who works in the home renovation field, perhaps he or she can offer you a discount on their services. If you are renting your space, talk to your landlord about whether or not they can make accommodations for your age and any potential disabilities that you might have.

Though aging in place isn’t cheap, investing in these changes will allow you to live safely in your home for years to come. 



In Conclusion:


Though aging in place isn’t for everyone, it is an option worth considering. By evaluating your home and making a few crucial modifications and alterations, you can make your household safer and more mobility-friendly, allowing you to remain in your living space for years to come. 




Photo: © /mohamed Hassan

Editor, 10/15/2020