If you are getting on in age or have a family member who is and comes to visit or is considering moving in, or if you simply want to update the home of an aging person you know, here are five ideas for making life more convenient in the home, for those of us who are getting older.
One: Start with the cabinets and cupboards in the house. You would be amazed at how difficult something as simple as opening a cabinet can be for a person getting on in years. Luckily, however, you have several options here. You can replace existing smaller knobs or handles for ones that are far easier to manipulate. You can remove doors completely or purchase cabinets or shelving units that are made without doors on them. You can redo shelving on cabinets that are low and require bending or kneeling to get into (such as Lazy Susans) by putting pull out shelves in their place. Another option that proves quite helpful is purchasing a gripper made to reach and pull out items that are in high places, such as in overhead cabinets; these eliminate the need to climb onto something in order to reach an item that is above your height. You can also purchase shelving that pulls down with a simple tug and goes back into place in equally simple measure.
Two: Floors. Make sure floors are free of obstacles. This does not only mean keeping the area clean and free of debris, which is important, but it also means uncluttering a room or space. Take out unnecessary furniture. Make sure there is room for wheel chair access in and around the room, if need be. Do not put area rugs or runners down. They are notorious for tripping people. Use a surface that is non-slippery or has a built-in grip, such as non-slip ceramic or vinyl tile. If you have carpets, make sure the pile is low and the threads are tightly woven together, this minimizes the chances of tripping and makes it easier to use a cane or wheelchair should the need arise. Be certain to level the space on the floor that comprises the transition from room to room.
Three: The bathroom. Bathrooms are vital because everyone ends up here multiple times throughout the day. If you are remodeling this space for an elder consider the following options: Pull bars are vital and can be placed in stand-up showers, bathtubs, or next to commodes. Mounting sinks to the wall can create instant wheel chair access. Recessing the floor in the shower, removing the lip and adding a drain to the center of that space can create a wheel chair accessible shower. You could also consider the purchase of a bathtub with doors for ease in getting in and out of it to bathe. For the toilet you can get higher seat cushions to aid with ease in sitting and getting up, or you can purchased a new toilet with a much higher seat than the one you currently have installed. Another kind of modification you can make is changing out the faucets and sink or shower/tub handles to be more accommodating to the elder user.
Four: Do a safety check in and around the home. A home security system with live help can be a great investment. Motion sensors on outside lighting can be a wonderful safety asset to the home as well and it is virtually maintenance free for the elder, the only care needing done is the change of a light bulb from time to time, and of course the installation, both of which you can hire a reputable company to come in and do the work for you, if need be. Do not hire anyone outside of the home to do work in or for your home unless they have very good references that you check out diligently for yourself.
Five: Because exterior maintenance of a home can be so taxing on a person, and requires a lot of hard work, or great expense, you may want to consider the one-time expense of maintenance free exterior material on the entire home, such as aluminum siding, vinyl siding, or even better, brick or stone.
These five suggestions offer a plethora of choices to you, and hopefully help you to start thinking of other ideas that would pertain to your specific home and situation as well. In no time at all, you can modify or adapt your home to become “Senior” friendly. It just take a little forethought, planning, and attention to small details.