Aging in Place: How to Prepare Your Home for Safety
by Kent Elliot
Aging in place is the goal for most retirees. Nobody likes the idea of spending the rest of their years in an assisted living facility. We want to stay in our familiar environment where we can be surrounded by family and friends. However, your average home isn’t build with aging in place in mind. There are several accessibility features seniors need to enable a safe lifestyle. The following advice is for older adults who are curious about renovating their homes in order to facilitate aging in place safely.
Bathroom Safety Renovations for Seniors
The bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house, especially for seniors. The conditions put people at risk for falls, which can be dangerous and even deadly for people over the age of 60. To make the bathroom safer, install grab bars by the toilet and tub that can help seniors get up with ease. A shower bench along with an extendable shower head can make bathing easier and safer, as well. Furthermore, slip-proof flooring can prevent accidents and injury. Cork floors are soft and slip-resistant, but it is easily damaged by water. Rubber and vinyl floors are better flooring options that can stand up to the elements found in the bathroom. Burns aren’t really an injury we associate with the bathroom, but hot water can do serious damage to a senior’s skin. Prevent burns by limiting the maximum temperature on the hot water heater and clearly labeling faucets so seniors can’t get confused about which temperature they are turning on the tap.
Stair and Step Safety
Safety ramps are generally considered accessibility features for those who need to use mobility aids such as wheelchairs or walkers. However, even if a senior doesn’t use a mobility aid regularly, a safety ramp over stairs can facilitate safe living for aging in place. Steps are tricky and can easily cause harmful falls. A safety ramp complete with slip-proof treads and handrails can make the whole process easier on a senior so they can get around the house with peace of mind. If building your own, make sure the ramp is at a gentle 1:20 slope for ease of use.
Being able to safely prepare one’s own meals is a cornerstone of independent living. A kitchen that facilitates aging in place keeps this fact in mind. Make a kitchen more accessible by removing essential items from high reaching cabinets and reorganizing to keep things closer to the ground. Installing a kitchen island is a great way to add more accessible storage while providing seniors with surface area for food preparation. Finally, consider installing slip-proof flooring, as in the bathroom. Moisture in the kitchen is just as common and can lead to dangerous falls and injury.
Is Relocating Right for Retirees Aging in Place?
While a lot of seniors don’t like the idea of leaving their homes, many people can’t age in place safely in the house they raised their families in. Family-friendly homes are often very large and contain multiple stories. Downsizing to a smaller house in retirement cuts down on the maintenance and makes aging in place more manageable. Plus, downsizing can free up some cash that can contribute to a retiree’s nest egg. An accessible home in McKinney, TX typically sells for around $389K, less than the larger homes that accommodate growing families. When looking for accessible homes in your area, use a checklist to ensure a place has everything you are looking for. When looking online, use search filters to narrow results and save time.
Most seniors want to age in place, but it has to be done with safety in mind. The bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house, so make it safer with handrails, shower benches, and slip-proof flooring. Stairs can be tricky to navigate. A safety ramp with a delicate slope helps seniors even if they don’t use a mobility aid. Of course, if a house is too big, it may make more sense to relocate. Finding an affordable and accessible home in your area can free up cash to contribute to your nest egg. Weigh your options and make decisions that allow you to live the rest of your life safe, happy, and healthy.
Dr. Zomnir is a family doctor who has chosen to step out of the fray and care for patients with love and compassion.