Is Your Home Right for You to Age in Place?
By Christian Rabito, Home Instead Senior Care
Most of us, about 94 percent, want to grow old gracefully and safely in our own home. That is the definition of “aging in place” — making the decision to stay in the residence of your choosing for as long as you can.
But many older adults are reshaping how they do this. While the emotional elements and personal ties to a home are major factors in a senior’s desire to stay put, more are moving into a more practical residence to call “home.”
As we age, loss of agility and mobility, poor eyesight and other factors may make it more difficult, and even unsafe, to age in place. It is important to consider age-friendly modifications and features to make this desire a reality.
Whether a senior chooses to age in their current home or move, there are several potential pitfalls that should be considered.
- Tubs, showers and toilets: Sunken tubs (tubs below floor level or hot tubs), traditional tub/shower baths and slippery steps can be dangerous and pose a potential fall risk to seniors.
- The Fix: Install a curbless or low-threshold walk-in shower and grab bars. One grab bar should be at the entrance to the shower, one along the back wall and another near the toilet. In addition, consider installing higher toilets for easier access.
- Thresholds: A threshold (or step up) into a house of six inches could be a challenge for someone with a walker or in a wheelchair. Different types of flooring can also create uneven floor surfaces.
- The Fix: Add a removable ramp to entrances and exits of your home. For homes with vertical entrances of more than two feet, consider installing a lift. Repair uneven floors by cutting a cork to the thickness of the floor and pressing it into the cracks between the floors. The cork acts as a sealant and can be stained to match the floor color.
- Stairs and Stairways: Mobility or balance issues can make stairs more difficult. If the stairs have unsecured rugs on them, these could slip and increase the risk of a fall. Railings are often only on one side and lighting in stairways may be inadequate.
- The Fix: Consider adding a stair lift or glide. Secure any floor coverings to the stairs to prevent sliding. Additional handrails may also be helpful.
- Floors: Materials used in both bathroom and kitchen floors are often smooth and could be slippery. Rugs without rubber backing or that are unsecured could cause more problems.
- The Fix: Runners with rubber backing are an inexpensive solution. New products on the market offer floor safety treatment options that can be brushed on and permanently treat a floor to make it less slick. Peel and stick traction slips are also available for some floor surfaces.
- Lighting: Inadequate lighting could be an issue in several areas of the home including entrances, bathrooms, hallways and bedrooms.
- The Fix: Upgrade to LED bulbs, which are brighter and have the potential for a longer service life. They are more expensive, but they usually won’t need to be replaced as often. You can also add lamps in strategic locations to brighten an area.
Address these issues to ensure that seniors remain safe and independent in their forever home.
Most seniors understand their needs will change as they age, but many have not taken action to ensure they will be able to live in their home as they age. It’s important that you and your family discuss and plan ahead to make the best decisions about aging in place.
To start the discussion and help navigate the process, Home Instead Senior Care developed resources to help seniors and their families. You can find those free resources on the Home Your Own Way website.
Home Instead Senior Care serves residents around Lake Pontchartrain. Find a location near you at www.homeinstead.com.