If you want to remain in your home as you age, you’ll likely need to make some modifications to your home. A U.S. Census Bureau report found that only 10% of homes are aging-ready. Most don’t have features that allow older adults to live safely and comfortably.
Some of those features, such as a first-floor bedroom and full bathroom, could require a costly renovation or even a move to another home. However, there are several low-cost and no-cost modifications you can make that will have a big impact, says Dan Lagani, co-founder and CEO of Silver Solutions, which provides safe living solutions, downsizing and relocation services, and home emptying services. “To stay in your home as long as you want, you have to do these things,” he says.
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As you age, you can have too much of a good thing—that is, if it’s creating obstacles in your home. “When you can’t make your way around the furniture, it’s a problem,” Lagani says. Other types of clutter, such as piles of books, magazines and clothing, also can be safety risks.
Review each room, closet and storage area to determine which items you can live without. Lagani says that, most likely, you don’t need one-third of the stuff you have in your home. It’s time to let go of things you haven’t used in a couple of years. Sell, donate or dispose of what you don’t want—or enlist the help of a service such as Silver Solutions to do it for you.
If parting with your items is difficult, at least commit to keeping loose items off the floor. And institute a rule that if you buy something new, you have to get rid of something you have.
Remove trip and fall hazards
More than 1 in 4 people age 65 and older fall each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Medical costs for falls total more than $50 billion a year.
According to the CDC, a variety of conditions contribute to falls among older adults, including tripping hazards. “Throw rugs are the most common offender,” Lagani says. “They are the classic trip and fall hazard.” He recommends removing them from your home. And make sure bathmats have anti-slip pads under them.
Also, make sure there aren’t electrical cords, phone cords or mobile device charging cords in walkways. You can find inexpensive cord clips to secure cords to the wall at big-box retailers, office supply stores and on Amazon.
Install grab bars in bathrooms
Ideally, older adults should have walk-in showers to eliminate the fall hazard of stepping in and out of a bathtub. Remodeling a bathroom can be expensive, though. Replacing a traditional tub with a walk-in tub can be a more affordable option, but even that can break some budgets.
At the least, install grab bars in the bathtub and near the toilet. “It’s not just about age,” Lagani says. “It’s about the physics of water and slippery surfaces.” Having these inexpensive safety features can go a long way toward preventing falls in the bathroom.
Eyesight changes over time, so it’s important to evaluate both the lighting inside and outside of your house. You might need to add lights outdoors to keep walkways to your home well lighted. More importantly, make sure you have adequate lighting throughout your home.
Motion sensor lights or simple night lights can be especially helpful for keeping hallways and bathrooms easy to navigate if you get up at night. There are a variety of options, including the inexpensive Sensky Motion Sensor Night Light ($13.99, Amazon.com) that can remain on or turn on automatically when motion is sensed.
You shouldn’t have to bend or reach to get the things that you regularly use, Lagani says. Otherwise, you risk injuring yourself when you attempt to retrieve them. Cabinets, closets and storage areas need to be organized so that frequently used items are easily accessible.
Also, make your home more accessible by replacing door knobs with levers. Install handrails on both sides of stairways. Consider adding raised toilet seats to make it easier to get on and off toilets. Your bed also should be the right height, with your feet touching the floor when you sit on the edge of it.
Making what might seem are minor adjustments can go a long way toward making your home safer so you can remain independent as long as possible.
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