April Harris Jackson

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So you’re getting older.

Don’t worry; it happens to all of us – or at least that’s the goal!  But aging doesn’t mean that you have to limit your independence or immediately check into a nursing home. It just means that you need to make a few adjustments to ensure that your home remains comfortable and safe.

Today we will go over ten simple changes that can help you avoid a Steve Urkel move and make your home an age-friendly environment.

Why Aging in Place is Important

Aging in place refers to the ability to live in your own home safely and independently, regardless of your age or ability level. It allows you to maintain your familiar surroundings and go about your everyday routines with just a few helpful changes to your home. Aging in place enables seniors to maintain their autonomy and dignity while also reducing the financial burden associated with moving to assisted living facilities.

Before You Start: Assess Your Accessibility

The first step in creating an age-friendly home should come before you ever need one. Before you need a home that’s accessible to older individuals, identify potential hazards. This includes assessing the layout, identifying tripping hazards, and evaluating essential areas such as the bathroom, kitchen, bedrooms, and living room. 

Your modifications will depend on your individual requirements. Consider your mobility, vision, hearing, and other specific needs. By understanding your needs, you can tailor your modifications to best suit your requirements for a safer living environment.

For example, if you notice you’re having trouble hearing the TV, you should consider investing in a door light. That way, if someone rings the doorbell, you won’t have to rely on hearing alone.

Ten Simple Changes You Can Make

1) Make the Bathroom a No-Slip Zone

The bathroom is a high-risk area for slips and falls. Installing grab bars near the toilet, shower, and bathtub can greatly enhance safety. Additionally, consider adding a shower bench or chair and a handheld showerhead for added convenience.

2) Keep Everything in Your Kitchen Within Reach

In the kitchen, ensure that commonly used items are within easy reach. Consider installing lower countertops and adjustable cabinets. Adding non-slip flooring and bright lighting can also make a significant difference in accessibility. Strong magnetic bars can keep knives in reach (just be sure the magnets are super strong so the knives don’t fall off the wall)!

3) Don’t Fall Out of Bed

In the bedroom, make sure the bed is at an appropriate height for easy entry and exit. Install handrails or use bedside grab bars to assist with mobility, or put a mobility device like a rollator next to your bed to help you get in and out of it. Adequate lighting near the bed and a clear pathway to the bathroom can also make a big difference for nighttime trips.

4) Clear a Walking Space in the Living Room

In the living room, arrange furniture to create clear pathways and remove any clutter that may pose a tripping hazard. Consider using sturdy, comfortable chairs with armrests to assist with standing and sitting. Adequate lighting and easy-to-reach light switches can also guarantee that you see any tripping hazards before they happen.

5) Install Grab Bars and Handrails in High-Traffic Areas

Installing grab bars and handrails throughout the home can greatly improve mobility and stability. Place them in key areas such as staircases, hallways, and entryways. Opt for sturdy, non-slip options that can support your weight.

6) Make Sure the Flooring is Non-Slip

Selecting the right flooring can significantly impact mobility. Non-slip flooring options include vinyl, cork, and rubber. Remove any loose rugs or carpets that may pose a tripping hazard, and ensure flooring transitions are smooth and level. Using cord covers near the wall (out of the walkway) will help prevent tripping over electronic cords.

7) Widen Doorways and Hallways

Widening doorways and hallways can improve accessibility for individuals with mobility aids such as walkers or wheelchairs. You may need to consult a professional contractor to assess the feasibility of making these modifications in your home.

8) Clear Up Your Entrances

Ensure that outdoor pathways and entrances are clear of obstacles. Repair any cracks, potholes, or uneven surfaces that may pose a tripping hazard. Install handrails or ramps as needed to facilitate easy entry and exit. 

Reminder: this is something you should be doing if you have one fall (or even before that). Don’t wait until you’ve had several falls to implement these tips!

9) Light Up the Room

Good outdoor lighting is essential for safety. Install motion-sensor lights near entrances and along pathways to ensure visibility at night. Consider adding solar-powered lights for energy efficiency.

10) Explore Smart Home Support

Smart home technology can greatly enhance accessibility and convenience. Consider installing voice-activated devices, smart thermostats, and automated lighting systems that can be controlled remotely.

Bonus: Medical Alert Systems/Cell Phones

Medical alert systems typically consist of a wearable panic button that can be easily activated in case of emergencies. When the button is pressed, it sends a distress signal to a monitoring center, where trained professionals can assess the situation and dispatch help if needed.

Just by adding a simple necklace or wristband to your daily outfit, you and your loved ones can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing help is just a button press away.

Another option is cell phones. If you have a loved one with mobility issues, a simple daily check-in can add to your peace of mind. (Pro tip: you can totally check-in without “checking in” – it doesn’t have to be super serious. Sending fun GIFs and saying, “I thought you’d like this!” is a great way to ensure someone’s OK without sounding like a worrywart.)

When in Doubt, Ask a Professional

Occupational therapists specialize in assessing individuals’ abilities and recommending appropriate modifications to promote independence. Consulting with an occupational therapist can provide valuable insights and personalized recommendations for what your home needs.

For more extensive modifications, such as widening doorways or installing ramps, we recommend consulting with professional contractors. Contractors who are licensed and experienced in accessible home modifications can provide valuable insight and knowledge about what works.

Financing Home Modifications

Of course, modifying your home isn’t always cheap. Review your insurance coverage to determine if any modifications may be covered, and contact your insurance provider for more information. Some insurance policies may include provisions for home modifications that improve accessibility.

There are also various grants and financial assistance programs available to help individuals fund home modifications. Research local and national resources to find potential sources of financial aid. Non-profit organizations (like Rebuilding Together Nashville) and government agencies may also offer grants or low-interest loans. (Want more info? Check out this link from Rebuilding Together!)

Embrace Aging in Place to Enjoy Your Golden Years

As we age, it is important to adapt our lifestyle to align with the changing needs of our bodies. This doesn’t mean that your lifestyle will become limited – it just means that it might look slightly different. Just think: the only thing that stands between you and successful aging in place is a bit of redecorating.

As you prepare to age in your home, you may also want to make sure you have a plan in place for your estate. Graceful Aging Legal Services is here to help you with estate planning, probate, and conservatorships. We can help you put your paperwork together and figure out what you need to truly embrace your aging in place. Contact us today to see what we can do for you!