For our senior loved ones, finding the right balance between independence and safety is a very delicate thing. Many don’t want to give up their freedom and independence, after all, their home is filled with memories. However, they still need help to accomplish daily tasks and avoid dangerous situations.
There are a number of home modifications that can help seniors age in place in a safe environment while maintaining their independence as much as possible. Aging in place doesn’t have to mean expensive or radical changes to your home. Many updates can be done with minimal time and money, while still making a big difference in safety and comfort. Making renovations now will also save you money over time because it means not having to move into assisted living or a nursing home later.
Here are some simple but effective ways you can make to ensure your home is safe for aging in place:
Update Your Bathroom
- Make sure you have grab bars in the shower and around the toilet to prevent slipping and falling while bathing or using the restroom.
- Remove anything that could fall on you such as mirrors, towel bars, and soap dishes from the shower wall or next to the tub.
- Install a hand-held shower head so people can still bathe independently but with an added safety feature for falls.
- Use a shower seat/bench if an individual has difficulty standing in the shower or tub. Shower seats can be installed either inside or outside the shower stall to give people with mobility issues a place to sit when bathing. Shower seats are typically made from plastic or wood and feature a padded seat that’s comfortable for long-term sitting.
Update Your Kitchen
- Add safety features in your kitchen such as soft-close drawers and cabinets for easy access to pots and pans without having to lift heavy objects off of shelves or taking too much time bending down to retrieve items from low cabinets.
- Install a new faucet with a lever that can be operated with one hand instead of turning a knob to prevent having to reach across the sink.
- Replace wood or particleboard countertops with more durable materials like quartz, granite, and Corian-type surfaces—or at least cover them up when not being used by placing mats on top. This will make cleaning and maintenance easier and will help you save money on future renovations.
- Consider installing a dishwasher and pull-out shelves and drawers under the kitchen sink to help maintain efficiency around the kitchen as well.
- Consider swapping out your oven range for a ceramic induction cooktop. These surfaces only become warm when they come into contact with cookware, preventing accidental burns from hot metal surfaces.
Update Your Bedroom
- Install grab bars in your bedroom so you can still get up and down from your bed independently
- Consider lowering closet rods and installing pull-out racks
- Convert at least one closet into an open dressing area without doors to make it easy to access your clothing and will eliminate the possibility of knocking over anything behind the door when opening it.
- Install bedroom railings for added safety feature
Update Your Living Room and General Spaces
- Add night lights throughout the house so older adults or those with disabilities can easily find their way around at night without having to turn on bright lights that may be disruptive or painful to their sleep cycle or eyesight.
- Remove any obstructions that could cause a hazard in the home. This includes removing throw rugs, cleaning up clutter, and removing items that could fall and cause harm to older adults or those with disabilities.
- Be sure to do home safety modifications to accommodate sturdy medical equipment as you’ll need your house to be accessible if you have a long-term injury or illness.
- Make sure all doors are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. You should also see if you need to adjust the doorknobs to make them easier to open.
- If you’re having trouble navigating stairs, installing a stairlift can give you back the mobility you’ve lost. These handy lifts are installed directly on stairs, allowing users to travel up and down with relative ease.
- If you are having trouble getting up from your sofa or chair, consider adding a lift chair that can help you stand up or sit down again.
- Use non-slip mats under area rugs, which should be tacked down so they don’t slide around on hardwood floors or carpet.
- Carpeting offers a softer surface if you fall or stumble.
Update Your Garage, Driveway, and Walkway
- Add ramps to make it easier to get in and out of your home through the garage. Ramps can be installed on porches or at door entrances to make it easier for people with mobility issues to get inside and outside their homes without having to use stairs. They are easier for you to use and won’t wear out over time.
- An organized garage is a safe garage. Make sure all items are in their proper places and that there aren’t any boxes of junk sitting around as hazards.
- Install handrails on both sides of the stairs
- Fix sidewalk damage with concrete resurfacing. You can get injured if they have cracks or missing chunks of concrete. It’s a cost-effective alternative to replacing the entire sidewalk.
Aging in place is based on the concept that an individual’s living environment should be able to adapt to their changing needs. However, it may not be safe to age in place if the home isn’t appropriately modified to make it safer and more manageable.
Home modifications can give you the freedom you need to stay in your own home for as long as possible. While some modifications are simple and relatively inexpensive, others are more complex and costly. Certain changes may be required if you have a physical disability, but most changes will increase comfort and support for anyone who wants to age in place.
The most important thing to remember when preparing your home for aging in place is that these modifications are not just for seniors with mobility issues. Even if you’re young and healthy now, it’s good to think ahead and make changes before they become necessary.