By Mike Longsdon
Preparing Now for Aging in Place
Getting older is a fact of life, and safety is the number one concern for older adults. You can prepare for living safely and independently as long as possible in several ways, including home modifications to prevent falls and lifestyle changes to make you aware of your surroundings. Keep reading for some tips that will set you on the right path.
Seniors fall in their bathrooms more than any other place, which is why it’s important to make modifications to keep you safe. For example, install safety bars in your shower or tub, one where you enter and one on the opposite wall. Also, consider installing a sliding shower door to make it easier to get in and out. If you need to replace the bathtub, consider installing a zero-entry shower; there’s nothing to step over, reducing your chance of falling.
Always use a shower mat or install non-slip strips, and add a chair or bench to the shower — a seat that you can move outside the shower is even better. You’ll have a place to sit while you dry off or if you’re feeling lightheaded or tired.
When mobility becomes an issue, an elevated toilet seat can help you sit and get up more easily. This is especially true after hip or knee surgery. Change out the faucet for one with levers instead of knobs. When arthritis strikes, grasping a knob may be painful; levers can be manipulated with a palm or side of the hand, causing less pain.
A second top safety concern is your staircase. Falling down, and sometimes up, the stairs can cause serious injury. So, installhandrails in all stairwells of more than four steps. Inside, inspect the carpet or flooring to ensure that nothing can cause someone to trip. Outside, watch for stairs that are too narrow or obstructed by porch seating or the grandkids’ toys.
Good lighting is another important modification to consider. If you have existing light fixtures, be sure to use the brightest bulbs possible for that fixture. If lighting is lacking and it’s a seldom-used stairwell, opt for a motion-sensor fixture.
Installing a ramp might be a consideration if there’s a chance you or your partner will need a wheelchair. Even if you don’t use a wheelchair, a ramp can be easier to navigate if you have hip or knee surgery. Also, keep in mind that if you are building a home, opt for a single-story structure; no stairs means fewer places to fall.
Small Modifications for Big Impact
Doorknobs can be difficult to turn when you have arthritis or a shoulder or elbow injury. Consider replacing knobs with levers, which can be pushed down more easily than twisting knobs.
In the kitchen, you might install a touchless faucet. A simple wave of the hand turns the faucet on or off. Most manufacturers market this for cleanliness, but it’s another arthritis-sensitive improvement. When it’s time to replace the fridge, choose one with a water dispenser in the door. You can skip the plastic water bottles that are hard to open. If you aren’t in the market for a new fridge, get a water dispenser that sits on a fridge shelf.
In addition to home modifications, you may need to make some lifestyle changes too. Engage in daily exercise to stay mobile longer. Yoga and tai chi offer stretching to keep joints and muscles limber. Pay attention to where your feet are at all times. If you aren’t watching, you can easily find yourself on the ground after tripping. Also, get your eyes checked and update your glasses as needed. You don’t want to take a tumble that you could have prevented by seeing better.
Consider getting a companion. If you live alone and you fall, who’s going to help you? You can subscribe to an alert system, or you can depend on a buddy or roommate to get help.
Getting older doesn’t have to be scary where safety is concerned. With some home modifications and a few smart lifestyle changes, you can be safe and independent in your home for many more years to come.