According to the National Aging in Place Council, more than 90 percent of seniors would prefer to age in place rather than move into senior housing.
Yet statistics indicate that the longer seniors remain in their homes, the more at risk they are for injuries. More than 30 percent of seniors over age 65 fall every year, and an older adult dies as a result of a fall every 29 seconds in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Choosing to stay in your home shouldn’t come at the cost of your safety. Unfortunately, that’s often the price seniors pay for aging in place in homes that aren’t set up to ensure their well-being. In many cases, a few modifications – most of them fairly minor – can make the difference between a happy and healthy old age and an accident that necessitates a move into an assisted living facility.
Clear, uncluttered space
If mobility is an issue for you, then it’s important to create as much space as possible in your home. Go through each room and decide what can be moved out. You’ll probably find furniture, tables and floor lamps that can be moved or given away. Make sure there are no loose rugs that could present a tripping hazard, and keep all electrical cords secured along the wall. Your unwanted furniture can go to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, or you can sell it on eBay or Craigslist. Foot stools and low-lying coffee tables should be moved away and placed in storage or donated. If there are any children’s toys, make sure they’re kept picked up and put away in a safe place, especially if they’re in the vicinity of the stairs.
Keep objects you use often within easy reach so there’s no need to climb a stool or risk straining a muscle reaching too far for something. This can easily be done by rearranging your kitchen and bathroom storage space and any other part of the house you need to access frequently.
Elevated toilet seat
Many of the falls that seniors sustain in the home happen in the bathroom. It can be easy for seniors to lose their balance trying to lower themselves on and off the toilet seat. Install an elevated seat for better access, particularly if you’re in a wheelchair. Make sure there are grab rails on either side. This is a fairly easy DIY modification, though you may want to ask a friend or family member for assistance. Don’t forget to place non-slip traction swatches on the floor in front of the toilet, the sink, and in the bathtub.
Swap out the handles
Traditional round doorknobs may be difficult for some seniors to manipulate, especially for seniors in a wheelchair or who use a walker. It’s often much easier to replace them with levered handles for older adults whose wrists may be weakened from arthritis. Consider replacing your bathroom and kitchen faucet handles with handles.
Switching on lights can be a problem for mobility-challenged older adults. If your intent is to age in place and live conveniently and safely, consider installing the Clapper so turning lights off and on can be done with the clap of the hands. It makes a lot more sense than maneuvering through a darkened room and risking a fall. You can also use Amazon’s Echo to perform the same function.
A few modifications can often help seniors live safely in their own homes and avoid relocating to a senior living community for their own safety. In some cases, elderly individuals move into homes that are already well-prepared for senior living.
Written by Claire Wentz
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