If you’re of a certain age, say 60 or older, you may have started looking at your home with new eyes (maybe eyes that need slightly stronger reading glasses?). As baby boomers are reaching retirement age in droves, designers are being asked to remodel existing homes while taking account failing eyesight, limited mobility and fall protection.
A family member of mine who is a physician told me that she is afraid of the effects even one fall can have on her aging mother’s ability to stay independent and living in her own home. She tells me that recovery from fall injuries among older people can be long and extremely difficult. But short of placing ugly grab bars every two feet along the walls of our homes, what can we do to prepare ourselves and our parents?
What to Change in Your Home to Age In Place
Here are some features that we can all look into now to stave off the need to move — at least for a while. (Source: WSJ Sarah Bliss 08/23/18)
Begin with some simple modifications:
- Get rid of excess furniture and rugs so pathways are wider and free of trip and bump hazards
- Declutter so that items in cabinets and closets are easier to take out and replace without dropping things onto your feet
- Find a bed with suitable height
- Replace knobs on faucets, doors and cabinets with levers and pulls (think about stiff, arthritic hands that can’t grab knobs well)
- Install better, brighter lighting, especially at stairs or steps. Undercabinet lights can supplement overhead lighting in your kitchen
- Many manufacturers now offer stylish grab bars that double as towel holders in both various design styles
More Complex Remodeling
If you’re contemplating a remodel:
- Widen walkways in kitchens to allow for walkers or wheelchairs
- Ovens and microwaves should be placed at a level that does not require bending over or reaching up
- Choose drawers or cabinet pullouts rather than traditional cabinets to make everything easier to reach
- Install a curbless shower and floating sink for accessibility
- Install a raised toilet
- Consider pocket doors to allow easier mobility between rooms
- Minimize stairs or steps, and install ramps
If you’re in need of a designer who is trained in Aging in Place design, please let me know and I’ll share my resources with you.
If you or your aging loved ones want to stay in your home and be as independent as possible for as long as possible, look into the small modifications that you can make right now. Some of these changes don’t cost much, and can have a huge impact in keeping you safe from falls and other accidents at home.
And if you’re ready for a bigger remodel of your home specifically to age in place, meet with a designer who specializes in this area. It can make all the difference to being able to stay in your own home longer.