If you are a senior living alone or with an aging spouse, you may be giving some thought to aging in place. Aging in place means making adjustments to your home and life for accessibility and safety as you grow older. If you’re interested in accessibility around your home, here’s where to start.
Reduce Trip Hazards
According to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of death and injury among seniors in America. Even a single fall can cause serious injuries to the elderly and send them to the emergency room. For seniors looking to age in place, being aware of trip hazards is essential. Look around your home and check for any uneven flooring or drop-offs between rooms. If you have hardwood floors or tile, consider senior-friendly options to make the floor a little easier to walk on. Be mindful of pets in the home as well; dogs and cats account for quite a few falls for seniors, so make sure yours are trained to stay out of the way.
Make Bathrooms Safer
If you’re going to focus your attention on one room in your home, it should definitely be your bathroom. Bathrooms have the potential to be the most dangerous place in the house, especially for older adults. Most injuries occur around the shower or tub, so take some steps to make yours a little safer.
You can install grab bars in your shower or tub to make bathing less tricky as you grow older (a single grab bar can be purchased for under $15).
Another easy, inexpensive option is to use a chair when you bathe and to place non-slip mats inside your tub and shower. Want more of a senior-friendly upgrade? If you only have a tub, replacing it with a walk-in shower can reduce your risk of injury. If you need help with these projects, consider hiring a local handyman for the job. In Charleston, you can expect to pay between $157 and $677 for these services.
Create an Accessible Kitchen
Being able to safely prepare meals is vital to being able to age in place. But like bathrooms, kitchens can pose problems for seniors as well. You can make a few adjustments to make your kitchen more senior-friendly. Smaller changes, like rounding off cabinet corners or installing a shallow sink, can make a difference as you age. If you or a loved one uses a wheelchair, you may need to have the space between your cabinets widened to allow you to pass through the kitchen safely. Be sure to pick up accessibility tools that will make life a little easier. A change of lightbulbs or cabinet pulls can help those with low vision or arthritis get around the kitchen.
Get Help Paying for Modifications
Modifications to your home can be pretty expensive, especially for those living on a retirement or fixed income. Luckily, there are financial resources available to help you make the adjustments you need to age in place. If you have a disability, you may qualify for grants that will pay for your home upgrades. Veterans Affairs and HUD are potential sources for these grants, which you do not have to pay back. Even if you don’t qualify for a grant, you may be able to get assistance through low-interest loans or special programs.
Know How to Find Accessible Homes
If your current home has become a hassle, it may be best to find a new one to accommodate your needs. When modifications are not an option, or when downsizing makes sense, start with an internet search to find homes in your area that better fit your accessibility needs. Make a checklist of the features you are looking for and then use a filter.
For seniors, being able to age in place means being able to stay in control of your life. Having an accessible home is a good way to ensure comfort and safety as you grow older. With a few adjustments, you can make sure your golden years are some of your best yet.
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This article was submitted by Kent Elliot an author and architect focused on living spaces for elderly Americans.
Kent Elliot is a retired architect with a passion for dogs, DIY, and universal design. After a stroke left him with mobility issues, he thought he would need to move out of his home and into an assisted living community. But, using his experience as an architect and with a little creativity, he was able to successfully remodel his family home instead. The relief he felt has inspired him to help others do the same. He created AtHomeAging.info to share what he’s learned and is currently working on a book, “Aging in Place One Project at a Time: DIY Home Modifications That Don’t Require a Professional”.
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