Baby Boomers and Aging
In the next 20 years, there are an estimated 3,000,000 people who will turn 65 each year. In comparison to the previous generations of seniors who were interested in retirement community living the trend for the baby boomers is to stay in their home. Though this generation of seniors are healthier and in better physical shape than previous generations age does take a toll on mobility and vision. Below are some aging in place tips to help make your present home a better environment in which to age gracefully. Call a Certified Aging in Place (CAPS) contractor who can help assess your home and provide a comprehensive list of items to help create a safer home for aging in place. See this article “Here for the Long Haul” in Baltimore Magazine with expert advice from Joe Smith of Owings Brothers Contracting.
Universal Design in Bathroom
Many articles cover the need to update the bathroom to Universal Design so we will just briefly touch on the tips to do so in your home. Since the bathroom is usually one of the smaller rooms in the home mobility can be difficult for those using walkers and wheelchairs. Also, the need to bend and stoop and lift legs and arms can cause difficulty as the body becomes less flexible with age. Changing out your standard toilet to a comfort height toilet can make an amazing difference in a senior’s comfort. A less costly option is a raised toilet seat that can easily be installed on the present commode. Including step through tubs or walk-in curbless showers can create safety and convenience for bathing. Consider showerheads that are adjustable and handheld. Add grab bars at the toilet and in the shower/tub to prevent slipping and falling in a wet environment. If wheelchair accessibility is important lower vanities without cabinets can offer just the thing you need.
Lighting for Aging in Place
As we age our eyesight will tend to diminish and this will make navigating more difficult in low lighting. Several helpful updates can make aging in place much easier for moving through the home in darker or low lighted hallways and rooms. Install lighted switches or lighted cover plates and outlets. Motion-activated lighting is especially helpful in outdoor areas like the driveway, front walk or in the garage. This creates light instantaneously when you enter the space.
Changing light bulbs can be difficult especially if you need to climb on step ladders to do so. An easy and economical fix is to switch to LED bulbs. They are extremely long-lasting and will assure that light bulbs will glow for a long period of time before expiring. These bulbs last up to 50 times longer than incandescent bulbs even up to 50,000 hours.
Another option would be to install under cabinet LED lighting and toe kick lighting in the kitchen. The undercabinet lighting throws light over the work surface assuring safety with knives and other utensils. The toe kick lights shed light on the floor and make it easy for the elderly to see where they place their feet. Stairstep lighting is another helpful light addition for moving up and down stairways.
All of these helpful tips can make your home useful for aging in place and allow you to continue to live in your present home for years to come.
Tripping and slipping are hazards that seniors can experience. As we age balance can become a problem, especially when walking and with vision dimming. Some safety considerations would be to create smooth walkways outside. Uneven surfaces can cause loss of balance and tripping. Keep shrubs and plants trimmed back off the walkway. If you have gravel next to the sidewalk install a curb or landscape fencing to keep the gravel or mulch in the bed and off the sidewalk.
If wheelchair accessibility is needed or if walkers are being used by those living in the home an outdoor handicap ramp may make moving from the exterior to the interior less difficult. Ramps can be built right over stairs and can be easily removed when they are no longer needed.
For indoors eliminate the level change in flooring wherever possible opting for smooth transitions from room to room. As people age, they may tend to drag their feet a bit more. Replacing flooring throughout the home with softer products can help ensure bones don’t break or bodies don’t bruise in case of falling. The flooring should be easy to maintain so as not create an added burden.
When aging in place accessibility is one of the top concerns. First-floor living can bring great peace to older folks as it removes the fear of falling downstairs, as well as, the effort needed to go up. Combining the essential rooms on one level by reconfiguring the floorplan can keep you living in your two-story home during the senior years. Move the bedroom downstairs by taking over a seldom-used den or dining room.
Unclutter rooms by removing unnecessary furniture or rugs. The more space in each room for navigating the better for aging in place design. Take care of electric lamp cords and curtains that touch the floor. Remove large knick-knacks keeping surface uncluttered and eliminating the possibility for breakage. This can be a safety hazard for someone with diminished eyesight. Keep them from the dangerous clean up of glass lighting fixtures, bulbs or bric-a-brac.
Other Aging in Place Tips To Consider
- Consider automatic flushing mechanisms
- Install anti-scalding temperature controls in shower and sink
- Consider wall ovens with doors that swing open to the side in lieu of in front
- Cabinets with drawers that pull out, corner lazy-Susans and pull out shelves
- Replace doorknobs with easier to grip levers
- Trade faucets for models with blade handles or motion controls