Seniors & Aging: Essential home modifications for your senior years

If you’re like the vast majority of older adults, your preference is to live in your own home for as long as possible.

To age in place comfortably and safely may take some planning and a few home modifications to help accommodate a new stage in your life. But it’s essential. It’s also probably better you do it before you need it, while you have the health and independence to do it the way you want it done.

To help make your home more livable as you age, we’re going to suggest a few ideas and products that can be implemented in an existing home, are safe, easy to retrofit and easy to use.

Entrances and Exits

  1. Exterior lighting at all entrances. This is important so you can easily find the door handle and key hole to open the door. It also allows you to see door mats, stairs and thresholds to avoid tripping.
  2. Peephole or video doorbell that allows you to identify someone before opening the door.
  3. Interior chain lock. Allows you to speak to a visitor safely, without unlocking your door.
  4. Change door handles to levers. Levers are easier to use, especially for those with arthritis in their fingers, hands or wrist. It’s also a lot easier to open a lever when holding grocery bags or a purse.

The Kitchen

  1. Cabinetry is easy to access for food, dishes, pots and pans. No items should require a stool or reaching from your tippy toes. The idea here is to avoid unnecessary falls or dependence on help.
  2. Cabinets and drawers have easy to handle D shaped handles, instead of knobs.
  3. The sink has a lever or touch based faucet, as opposed to a turning knob or handle. Again, turning can become more difficult as we age.
  4. Avoid polishing wood, tile or linoleum floors with a slippery wax.
  5. Proper lighting over work areas like the stove, kitchen sink and preparation / chopping block.
  6. The kitchen has an area where you can cook while seated. This can help later on when standing for extensive periods of time can become challenging due to sore feet, a sore back or muscle weakness.
  7. Make sure stove controls are easy to see (contrasting color, backlit) and safe to use (are in the front of the stove, with no need to reach over or have your hand beside the flame or burner.

The Bathroom

  1. Raised toilets, to make it easier to sit and stand from the toilet.
  2. Grab bars are installed next to the toilet, on the wall getting into the bathtub or shower and inside the bathtub or shower.
  3. The sink, shower and bathub faucets are easy to use levers, as opposed to twisting knobs.
  4. The bathub or shower floor has non-slip tape or mat on surface.
  5. The shower has a no step entry to prevent tripping and falling.
  6. The shower head is hand held and easily accessible with reaching to prevent slips and falls
  7. The shower has seating.
  8. Explore a walk-in tub that features a low step to get in and out of the bath tub, a permanent seat, grab bars and a removable shower head.

Steps and Stairways

  1. Install hand rails on both sides of your stairways. This lets you use your dominant hand for balance on the way up and down the stairs.
  2. Add an easy to access light switch at the bottom and top of the stairway.
  3. Add automatic motion sensored night lights at the bottom and top of the stairs so the first step up and down are easy to see.
  4. Make sure the stairs are not slippery. When using carpet, make sure it’s fitted snuggly and use low pile carpeting with thin padding.
  5. Fix any loose steps, non-flush boards, raised nail heads, etc…

Other suggestions

  1. Install front-loaded washer and dryer, and consider placing doors at waist height to make them easily accessible.
  2. Place a telephone in every room, so you don’t have to rush to get the phone, increasing likelihood of injury.
  3. Place automatic night lights in all hallways and heavily trafficked areas.
Marc Felgar is an aging and senior care expert and online entrepreneur from Montreal, QC. He is the founder of www.seniorsafetyreviews.com, which reviews products, technologies and resources to help people deal with the challenges of aging.

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