Experts define aging in place as having the capacity to stay in your own home throughout the years, being safe in the community, moving about independently, no matter the income, age or ability.
This is the ideal arrangement for most people. In an AARP survey, an overwhelming majority of the respondents aged 45 and up said that they preferred growing older in their own homes. This does mean that the home must be up to the task.
There are a number of things that need to be considered. For instance, you have to anticipate possible declines in terms of cognition, strength, balance, vision, and mobility. Check if the home is equipped to deal with these issues in the future. If not, then things will have to be changed to deal with the limitations and make home as safe as possible.
Most people buy their home during their younger years so they don’t bother to think about the far off future when they might need to move about in a wheelchair or walker. Once we get to a certain age, however, we have to start thinking about the width of doors and the steepness of stairs. These will have to be resolved appropriately.
Accessibility is massive. You need to make sure that entries and passageways can be accessed easily even if you have diminished mobility. The doorways may have to be widened. Some steps may be eliminated o allow a wheelchair to roar freely. Railings may be placed at the sides of the stairs to provide assistance and prevent accidents. Rugs may have to be removed in vulnerable spots or at least secured so they don’t cause slippage. Replace door knobs with lever handles.
Bathrooms get frequent use. They are crucial to hygiene and health. Make sure that these have no issues with accessibility despite their small size. Remove thresholds so that it is easy to move about with lifting the legs. Get a handheld shower head to target areas that require cleaning. Install grab bars on the walls and consider using taller toilets to reduce bending problems. You can also get hands-free faucets or lever handles.
Another area that may require redesign is the kitchen. A truly independent person will be able to prepare food and eat in relative comfort. This can get tricky if the shelves are stacked high. The fastest way to resolve this is to prioritize the most frequently used items in the lower shelves. They should be easy to reach when needed. The same can be said for items under the countertops. Reduce bending by placing near the top. The counter itself may be lowered so that meal prep can be accomplished while sitting down.
Of course, you have to check if the lighting is bright enough to illuminate all corners of the house. Poor eyesight can cause seniors to miss objects and trip on them. It makes searching for items difficult. You should also consider using fixtures with multi-bulb setups. This way, burned out bulbs need not be replaced right away since others are still working. Reliable technologies like LED can also be used to lessen the need for replacements by the elderly.