Aging at home is usually most people’s preferred way to spend life’s autumn years. To do so, it is a good idea to make some changes in order to ensure safety and comfort for ourselves or our loved ones. Michael Joseph, an experienced interior designer, offers ways to make a home the ideal place for seniors to enjoy their days and to maintain their independence – without the worry of accidental falls or injury.
Thank you, Michael, for your practical tips.
7 Ways Seniors Can Make their Home Elderly-Friendly
If you are one of those who would like to live out your years in the beautiful home you have so lovingly built over the years when your children were growing up, the thought of shifting to an assisted living facility will certainly not appeal to you. But as the years roll by, the inescapable facts of slower mobility, weaker grasping capacity, fading eyesight, and the tendency to lose your balance, raise the following question, “What can I do to modify my own home so that I am able to take up the challenges of life independently and in a meaningful way?”
Here are seven simple ways in which you can do this. Take a walk around your home and look at things from a fresh perspective. And if you need advice, there’s a wealth of information online to help you along the way.1
1. Keep your home free of all clutter
Unnecessary clutter can make it difficult and even unsafe for an older person to move around freely at home, so the first step is to eliminate all such clutter. Put away extra stuff that is not normally needed. Ensure that the electrical cords of appliances and electronic equipment are arranged safely out of the way.
2. Make alterations to reduce the risk of falling
Many areas in the home need attention if you are to reduce the risk of falling. Your floors should be made of slip-resistant material, especially in the bathroom and kitchen. Avoid the use of area rugs, but if you must have them, secure them with non-skid tape. If your floors are carpeted, use low-pile carpeting, which is safest for those using walkers or who have a problem with keeping their balance.
Thresholds are a dangerous trip-point so, wherever possible, have threshold-free doorways.
Installation of grab bars around the tub, shower and toilet will provide stability and safety. Make sure that these grab bars are anchored solidly onto the walls. Handrails fitted onto staircases, at waist-length, will be of great help to those who, occasionally, need to steady their balance. Stairs that are all one color can be unsafe for many older people who have fading eyesight or loss of depth perception. If the edge of the tread on the staircase is clearly defined with a contrasting color, it will help prevent falls.
Cover your entranceway so that during the wet weather it will remain dry and prevent you from slipping. Just inside the entranceway, place a small table and chair or bench for putting down stuff you have brought into your home. This will provide a measure of safety and comfort when you come in and as you change your shoes.
3. Adjust things systematically for easy accessibility
There are heaps of ways in which you can make things easy for yourself, some of which are listed below:
- Replace door knobs with lever handles that are easy to pull. This will help particularly if you have trouble manipulating the door knobs because of arthritis.
- In the bathroom, replace dual water faucets with single-handle lever faucets, which apart from being easy on your hands, will reduce the chances of scalding yourself at the sink. A pressure-balanced control will do the same in the shower where a hand-held showerhead will be far easier to use for someone with limited mobility. While grab bars may help with negotiating the bath tub, it makes more sense to install a seated step-in shower with an entry which has a minimal step to go over, if any.
- Place light switches (illuminated rocker switches instead of the standard toggle type) lower down on the walls so that they can be accessed easily, even by someone in a wheelchair.
4. Improve lighting arrangements
It is essential to have sufficient lighting in every room, in the hallway, near doorways, on the stairways and especially at the main entryway. Don’t forget the porches and pathways outdoors as well. Put night lights in wall outlets and leave them on at night in the bathroom and kitchen at least. Alternately, install motion-sensitive lighting throughout your home.
Let plenty of natural light enter the home in the daytime but use blinds or drapes to control any unnecessary glare.
5. Beef up security arrangements
Elderly people are often soft targets for unscrupulous elements, so it is imperative that you strengthen your security arrangements.
6. Reduce Energy Costs
If your budget permits, you can also strengthen your home’s thermal envelope by changing doors and windows to energy-efficient replacements. Elderly folk can benefit from the greater degree of comfort, security and savings in energy costs that these provide. The newer replacement windows with their dual-paned glazing and low-E coating are much stronger than the old single-paned windows and with laminated coating, they become tougher and more difficult to break into. You might want to consider investing in energy-efficient windows with Comfort365 from Champion Window. These have the Energy-Star labels and you’ll save significantly on your utility bills over time.
7. Widen entry doors
If you intend to install a new entry door, consider widening the doorway to make it easy to maneuver a wheelchair easily through it and fit the door with a wide-angle peephole at a lower height for the simple reason that with age, height also decreases.
American Association of Retired Persons: www.aarp.org
Home Modification Resource Center: www.homemods.org
National Council on Aging: www.ncoa.org
The AARP Home Fit Guide at homefitguide.org
Rebuilding Together: www.rebuildingtogether.org
About the author
My name is Michael Joseph, a freelance writer who has had 12 years of experience as an interior designer. I have a natural flair for interior and exterior home decor. I believe home improvements should not only be aesthetic but sensible and energy-efficient as well.