and Claire Wentz, Caringfromafar.com
Easy Modifications That Will Make Your Home Safe for Aging in Place
Living out your golden years has some definite perks, but aging comes with some challenges too. Even if you haven’t reached the point where you worry about accessibility and safety issues, it’s important for seniors to make a plan for how to handle them (ideally, before they become a problem!). And for seniors who choose to age in place, making home modifications to address these issues isn’t a luxury – it’s a step that’s essential if you want to live comfortably and safely in your own home long term.
What Are the Biggest Risks of Aging in Place?
Modern architects have caught on to the need for universal design, but most of us don’t have those safety and accessibility features already built into our homes. The biggest safety concern as we age comes from the risk of falling, but there are also less obvious concerns, like scalding, fire risk, and lack of accessibility. To determine where you stand, start by doing an assessment of your home, room by room, inside and out. You can do this yourself, with a family member, or with the help of an occupational therapist.
Where Should You Start With Improving Safety?
Once you’ve assessed these risks, you’ll need to determine the best plan of action to reduce them. Some seniors choose to make modifications to the home they’re in, while others realize they may be better off buying a new home. There are pros and cons either way. If you decide to move, a real estate agent can help you find a home that requires less maintenance, with single level living, and that already has some of the safety features you need.
Seniors who are considering moving should start by looking at their budget and estimating how much house will comfortably fit into your budget. This will help you zero in on the right homes that are in your budget, plus you’ll still need to consider the cost of any modifications that a new house might need.
What Are the Best Small Changes You Can Make?
Many seniors think of making home modifications as a major undertaking, but it really doesn’t have to be. Some of the easiest and least expensive changes are also ones that will make the biggest improvement to your safety. For example, you can reduce the risk of falling by ensuring you have enough light in your home. You could install recessed lights in dark spots, but adding light can also be as simple as getting more task lighting, or as Consumer Affairs suggests, getting inexpensive LED tap lights for under counters.
Another small change you can make is to remove trip hazards, and this one is mostly free! Common trip hazards include scatter rugs, electrical cords, oddly placed furniture, and general clutter. Simple solutions can resolve these problems, such as buying a basket to collect random items like magazines.
Of course, it’s impossible to eliminate all fall hazards, especially if you have stairs. An easy way to make stairs safer, though, is to install a sturdy handrail. As an added bonus, this is a project that a DIYer or handyman can handle (no contractor needed!). If your home has a threshold with just one or two steps, consider getting a small ramp to use in those spots.
How Can You Make Bathrooms Safer?
Like stairs, bathrooms have an inherent fall risk that can’t be eliminated entirely. However, with this DIY guide from Family Handyman, installing grab bars is a simple and affordable modification that reduces this risk. If your budget allows, many seniors prefer curbless showers, but an easy alternative is to add a bath seat to your existing shower or tub. Getting an anti-slip bath mat, as well as low pile anti-slip rugs for the rest of the bathroom, will help prevent slipping even more.
Seniors today are lucky to have the advanced technology that makes aging in place safer, but some of the best home modifications are still the simplest. Like Dorothy so famously said, there’s no place like home. With the right modifications, you can have the comforts of home and the safety you need.
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