An article written by Lydia Chan
Important Tips for Safely Aging in Place
For seniors who are entering their golden years, aging in place is a strategy that allows you to spend as much time as possible in the home where you want to live. This includes making modifications or adjustments to your home to make it more accessible and easier to navigate as you grow older. With 90 percent of seniors planning to live in their homes for the next five years, here’s a look at a few easy must-have modifications that will eliminate the most potential for injury as you age in place.
Take a look around your house at your current floors. If you have long, shaggy carpet that could trip up walkers or make maneuvering in a wheelchair all but impossible, you should replace it with carpet that has a much shorter nap -- or forgo the carpet altogether in favor of tile, laminate, wood, or vinyl. These floors are flat and smooth and will work better for walkers and wheelchairs. As you choose one of these floors, minimize the risk of slipping by picking one that has a little friction to it.
If your mobility is decreasing and a wheelchair seems likely to be in your future, consider installing a wheelchair ramp so you can more easily make it into your house. This is especially important if you have steps into your home, but it affects almost every home because of door thresholds. To give you an idea of cost, the average national cost to install a ramp $1,604. You should also think about installing smaller threshold ramps (usually made of rubber) inside your house to make transitions from one room to another easier. They are especially helpful if there is a door jam or threshold or a change from one flooring surface to another.
Depending on the size and number of doorways in your home, you may need to widen them to allow a wheelchair to easily pass through them. This could be a simple as removing some of the trim or as complicated as widening the opening itself. This gets even trickier if there are important electrical, plumbing, or foundational elements in the wall that would have to be moved, so remember to hire a professional for the more complicated jobs.
The bathroom in your home is one of the most important areas where you will need to make some aging-in-place modifications, especially if you have a traditional bathtub/shower setup. Replacing the tub with a walk-in shower is one of the best and safest fixes, but it also may cost the most. Less expensive options include a bathtub transfer bench, safety strips on the floor of the tub, and a grab-on safety bar on the side of the tub. A safety bar can also help with getting on and off the toilet.
As seniors age in place, you may find that certain kitchen elements no longer work as well, especially if you are limited by a wheelchair. You can have professional contractors lower your counter and sink heights if necessary. A quick, easy adjustment is to get a microwave that sits within easy reach on a stand rather than at the back of the counter or above the stove.
If you need help with your aging-in-place plan or don’t know where to begin, check out some of the resources available here. Implementing these suggestions and more will hopefully prolong your stay in your home, allowing you many more happy years there. Do some research and get started on your plan today!
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