Losing strength and balance can be common consequences of aging, and living with these changes is rarely easy. It is frustrating not to be able to do everything you once could; it can also be dangerous due to an increased likelihood of falls.
Changes in mobility can make your own home seem like a dangerous place. However, there are ways to make the home a safer place for seniors. With a few alterations and upgrades, you can live comfortably in your home again or bring aging loved ones into your home safely. Here are six ways you can bring your home up to snuff for anyone easing into old age.
Avoid Tripping Hazards
Falls are a serious hazard for older individuals, often resulting in injury or even death. Fortunately, the necessary adjustments for avoiding trips are simple. Remove throw rugs from the floors as well as cords and other items that can be tripped over. Move furniture around so that there are large pathways that will be easier to navigate. Outdoors, make sure walkways are smooth and kept clear of debris. If possible, remove thresholds between rooms and into the home so an older person does not have to step over the threshold.
Stairs can be difficult for seniors to navigate, whether they are painful for aching joints, cause balance issues, or are just harder to climb than they used to be. If you are looking for a new residence that is senior-friendly, stay away from stairs if possible. When making changes to a home, trade the stairs for a ramp for a wheelchair. Leading up to the home, take out stairs and instead use an inclined walkway. Inside the home, be sure stairs have handrails and add nonslip tread to avoid falls. A stair lift can also be installed to help a person get up and down.
Install Better Lighting
Adequate lighting is critical for seniors, especially when their eyesight begins to worsen over time. Make sure the home is well lit in every room. Good lighting can help a person to get around their home safely and avoid tripping over objects or bumping into furniture. Put bright lights in hallways and stairs and add extra lamps. Outdoors, make sure pathways are well lit. Consider motion-sensor lights that will help keep the area bright at all times and will not need to be turned on.
Provide Easy-to-Use Appliances
One aspect of a senior-friendly home that may not be as obvious are the appliances. Appliances can become more difficult to use as eyesight declines and technology advances. Find simple, easy-to-read appliances, such as microwaves with programmed buttons. Look for appliances with an automatic shut-off, which will ensure they do not stay on if they are forgotten. Find appliances that may be easier for someone with limited mobility, like a side-by-side refrigerator and freezer. Adjust the water heater to avoid scalding injuries.
Renovate the Bathroom
The bathroom is a prime location for falls among the elderly, especially those with poor strength or balance. Several changes in the bathroom can help a person maintain their independence and reduce the risk of getting hurt. Install grab bars in the shower or next to the toilet to help with standing up and exiting or entering the shower. If a tub is being used, a bench or bar can help give support while stepping into or out of the tub. Shower chairs and nonslip mats also help prevent slipping while showering and bathing.
Ben Flinders, executive director of Park Manor Rehabilitation Center, works daily with seniors with reduced balance, which can make showering or using the bathroom difficult. “A slip and fall in the shower can lead to broken bones or even death,” Flinders says. “Installing bars and using seats to bathe will help prevent a dangerous accident.”
Make It Easy on the Hands
People with arthritis or weakness in their hands may find it difficult or painful to do simple tasks like turning on the lights or opening a door. Some relatively cost-effective changes can make these acts much easier. Change out light switches with a toggle switch and change doorknobs and faucets to levers. These alternatives can lessen the amount of force and grip strength needed.
A slip and fall and be life-changing, or even life-ending, for a senior. Make your home a safe and comfortable environment by making changes in layout, fixtures, and appliances. The changes are small, but the gains in safety are enormous.