Aging-In-Place – Is Your Home Ready?

EZ Able, LLC
Published: Thursday, April 9, 2009
By Jody Fisk

Outfitting your home with aging-in-place features can help prevent accidents and make your home suitable for years to come.

Recently, EZ Able participated in the Builder’s Home & Improvement show in Washtenaw County. An attractive couple stopped and were looking at our Acorn stairlift being demonstrated.

I asked, “Do you know anyone who might need a stairlift?”

The wife replied, pointing to her husband, “Him!” As the husband was shaking his head his wife said, “Honey, show her your arm…”

His arm was in a cast from a recent fall. Since he was sometimes unstable, his wife was terrified that he would fall down the stairs.

She said,” He broke his arm from just tripping on the sidewalk, imagine if he fell down the stairs. We need a stairlift!”

About one in six Americans 65 and older will suffer a fall in the next three months, with about a third of those people sustaining injuries such as a broken hip, according to a new report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, “Slips and falls are usually completely avoidable,” says Ruth E. Thaler-Carter co-author of “The Who, What and Where of Elder Care: A handy, step-by-step guide to help navigate the maze of caregiving” published by LifeBridge Health.

There are simple things that you can do to help prevent unnecessary falls beyond equipping your home with a stairlift.

One simple thing to do is to increase the wattage of light bulbs around your home. “As we age, we need more light to see clearly in hallways, stairways, basements and garages,” says Thaler-Carter.

Increase the wattage of light bulbs throughout your house for better visibility. To reduce the chance you’ll trip or fall on your way to the bathroom, install nightlights to illuminate the route you travel.

Once your way is well-lit, turn your attention to your feet. Or more specifically, what might trip up your feet. Make sure your walkways and stairs are clear of debris and all paths in between furniture are wide enough to fit a walker, in case it’s ever necessary. Thaler-Carter says, “Ideally, you should remove all throw rugs, but if you’re attached to them, secure them to the floor with double faced tape.”

Stay off step ladders, another cause of falls, by arranging closets and cabinets putting items most frequently used within reach. “Ridding your home of many potential dangers can usually be done in a weekend,” says Thaler-Carter, “time well spent considering it can save you months of recovering from a nasty fall.”

Getting your “place” ready – Preventing a slip or fall isn’t the only way to get your home ready for the coming years. Aging-in-place remodeling projects preserve independence, increase accessibility and convenience.

Here are more simple ideas:

  • Chairs/Benches by entryways – makes putting shoes on/off easier
  • Non-slip strips on your tub or shower floor
  • Non-skid mats on the bathroom floor
  • Grab bars inside and right outside the tub or shower and by the toilet add steadying support in slippery situations.
  • Swap round, interior doorknobs with lever style ones and add easy-to-grasp handles and pulls to all cabinet doors and drawers to make it easier for arthritic hands to maneuver.
  • Adding sliding shelves and lazy susans in your cabinets make tracking down pot lids and cooking easier.
  • Barrier free shower that doesn’t require stepping up into a shower.
  • Handheld shower head.
  • Raise the dishwasher or purchase a drawer style dishwasher.

Regardless of what you do to get your home ready for your golden years, experts agree it’s best to start early. It’s easier and feels better to make changes at your leisure. It isn’t wise to be rushed into remodel because of an immediate need.