What Does it Mean to Age in Place?
Aging in place is the term that is used to describe senior citizens (those aged 65 and older) who choose to remain living in their own homes, as opposed to moving into a nursing home or other assisted living facility such as a retirement home, or moving in with family members.
Many senior citizens are capable of aging in place, and it’s the best living arrangement as long as they can do it safely and comfortably. With that being said, some senior citizens may need to have some changes made to their homes, like adding a medical alert system, in order to live comfortably and safely on their own.
Living Room and Bedroom Adjustments
Because the living room is a common area and your aging loved one will likely be walking in and around this room, make sure that there aren’t any clutter or extension cords on the floor that can cause your older adult to fall. Also try to make the space as open as possible, especially if they require the use of a walker or wheelchair.
When it comes to flooring, throw rugs and thick carpets are major tripping hazards. Ideal flooring should be slip-resistant, comfortable, easy to clean and maintain and provide some level of cushion in the event that a fall does happen. Some of the best flooring options for seniors include soft, thin carpet; cork; linoleum; and vinyl flooring.
The bedroom should also be a clutter-free area, as well as have the proper flooring for seniors. Another adjustment that can be made to the bedroom is the senior’s bed. The bed shouldn’t be too high, and the mattress shouldn’t be too soft or sagging, but firm and should provide support.
Another idea is to have a grab bar installed next to the bed that extends from the floor to the ceiling, to allow support when getting out of the bed. This type of grab bar can also be installed next to a sofa in the living room.
Kitchen and Bathroom Adjustments
Reaching for certain items stored at a higher level can be dangerous for seniors, and so can step stools. If possible, keep everything stored at a lower, reachable level to avoid any possible injuries. Sink faucets that require seniors to turn may aggravate existing joint conditions such as arthritis, so replace these with lever handles. It’s also a good idea to replace standard door knobs with single-lever handles too, to make opening doors easier.
Bathrooms are where the majority of injuries occur in senior homes, so it’s important to make sure that this room especially is safe. Grab bars should be installed by the toilet and in the shower, and the shower should also include a slip-resistant mat and/or shower chair to reduce the incidence of slipping in the shower. Another option is to install a walk-in shower/bathtub. Bathroom sink and shower faucets should also be easy for seniors to use.
Other Possible Renovations
If your aging loved one is still able to use the stairs, ensure that there are no tripping hazards on and around the staircase and that the railing is sturdy. If a senior can’t use the stairs, then installing a chair lift may be necessary— especially for those who use a walker or wheelchair. Another option is to install home elevators so your aging loved one won’t have to use their staircase at all. Home elevators are much smaller than traditional elevators, so they won’t take up too much space in the home.
All of these home renovations are focused on preventing falls in the home since senior falls are the leading cause of death and injury of those over the age of 65. Every senior is an individual, so when it comes to the senior in your life it’s important to identify any other potential hazards in their home to create a safer environment.