When most people think about the later stages of their life, they don’t see themselves living in an assisted living facility. While circumstances sometimes necessitate the need of professional supervision around the clock, most seniors can live happily and healthily in the comfort of their own homes. However, the average house is not built in a way that makes it both accessible and safe for seniors — especially if they develop disabilities in their later age. Fortunately, there are steps one can take to personalize a home that facilitates aging in place.
Stairs, Falls, and Safety
Most homes have steps somewhere, whether they be stairs between stories or a simple elevation you have to climb to get onto the front porch. However, steps can be potentially dangerous for older people. Even if they don’t use a mobility aid, climbing up and down stairs poses a risk for falling.
Falls are the number one cause of injury and death among older Americans, especially for those with neurological conditions. As we age, we lose some of our equilibrium. Medication and injury can exacerbate that imbalance. Furthermore, the body loses some of its muscle mass and bone density. All of these factors combined mean a simple fall can lead to a devastating fracture, which can then lead to a fatal infection or illness — these issues tend to snowball like that as we get up in age.
To prevent falls, it’s best to install safety measures for all stairs in and around the house. The simplest way to make stairs safe is by placing a ramp over them. Safety ramps are good for smaller elevation and household steps. Be sure to find a version that has a non-slip surface and handrails for extra safety. For two-story houses or a place with many stairs, a ramp isn’t really an elegant option. Chair lifts for stairs can be easily installed in residential homes. Another option is installing a residential elevator if the resources are available.
Bathroom Safety for Seniors
More bodily injuries happen in the bathroom than you may expect. In fact, The New York Times once called it “the most dangerous room in the house.” Seniors need safety measures in the bathroom for the same reason they need then around stairs: to help prevent falls. The high humidity of the bathroom leaves people extra susceptible to slipping.
To make your bathroom safer, replace the current floors with slip-proof flooring that can stand up to the moisture while providing a stable surface. Avoid natural stone, ceramic, and porcelain tiles. Shower safety is also important. Seniors should transition from taking standing showers or baths and instead use a bathroom bench and extendable shower nozzle for safe personal cleaning. Furthermore, have the temperatures clearly labeled on nozzles.
The Other Option: Relocating
For some seniors, the prospect of aging in place in the home where they raised their family is out of the question. The place may be too large, too far from their kids, or it simply may cost too much to do renovations. For these people, the better option is downsizing to a more accessible home and relocating. A new house is a perfect start for this important chapter of life. Accessible homes can be easy to find and affordable, too. For instance, accessible homes in Ridgefield, Connecticut have a median listing price of $795,000. You can even browse properties from the comfort of your home by using online filters that find the accessible homes that are for sale in your desired area — just use the checklist to find what you need.
If you want to age in place, you have to keep safety in mind. Common household things like stairs can be potentially dangerous for seniors. If you want to stay in a house, you will need to make renovations and modifications that ensure your safety and prevent falls. However, it may be worth it to consider relocating to a smaller home that is already accessible for seniors.