Does Your Home Support Aging and Healing?
Aging Matters

Aging at home is a necessary goal for older adults. It's the place that we're most comfortable in and most likely, the one we can afford. Though, many older adults take for granted that the home will support the requirements as they change physically.

Ordinarily, the home does not adapt to our changes. It's true that a one story is more supportive than a multi-story, but even a one level home comes with a basket of problems. For example, if one breaks a hip, how will you navigate moving from room to room? If it's two-story, then a living on the first story will take planning.

Recently, an elderly neighbor slipped and broke her shoulder. She lives alone and depends on friends for food and support to stay home. The other day, EMS was in her driveway. I don't know the status, but that can't be good news. She relies on a walker for mobility, and the broken shoulder makes it impossible for her to use.

So, what can one do today to make the home well-equipped for a supportive living? Think through these statements first:

  • Check your ZIP code -- are your friends and daily routines nearby? That includes the grocery market, bank, post office, hair salon, and the hospital and medical offices.
  • Connect your community -- set up a network of support. It takes effort, time, and resources but look into the Village to Village Network which helps members gain access to events, vetted vendors, and volunteers who help with driving, shopping and household tasks and services. Update the home
  • Check out universal design features that allow individuals to live longer and remain independent. The costs will range from a few hundred dollars to over $100,000 for a downstairs master suite addition. Try these simple improvements now before taking on an expensive overhaul.
  • Add a grab bar in the bathroom by the toilet and bathtub or shower.Install task lighting in the kitchen.
  • Replace door knobs with levers to ease entry.
  • Measure the hallways and determine if they accommodate wheelchair accessibility
  • Select low-pile carpeting and avoid high gloss finishes on floors.Make sure the house has flush transitions between spaces. Eliminate area rugs altogether.
  • Install single-lever faucets in all basins.
  • Install pull-outs and Lazy Susans, if cabinets are too high to reach.
  • Make sure you have a first-floor master bedroom.
  • Replace flip light switches with rocker type. Install automatic motion sensor lighting in the bathroom.
  • Purchase a lift chair and an adjustable bed, eliminating the need to leap up and out.

Other things to consider:

  • Zero landscaping -- ditch the grass.
  • Plant perennials not annuals.
  • Install a sprinkler system if you can't give up the grass.
  • Replace flowers and shrubs with a rock garden.

We prefer to stay at home and sometimes it's the only option. Plan now to ensure it keeps you safe in the golden years.

Carol Marak, aging advocate, columnist, speaker and editor at Seniorcare.com. She earned a Fundamentals of Gerontology Certificate from USC Davis School of Gerontology.



Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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