“Aging in place” refers to senior citizens (aged 65 and older) choosing to stay in their own homes, as opposed to moving into a nursing home, assisted living center, or with other family members. With advancements in health and technology, older individuals are living longer and working longer.
By being more active, many senior citizens are able to live safely and comfortably on their own. However, as active as many seniors are, our bodies still slow down as we age, meaning that we can’t always do all of the things we used to do, including simple daily activities. Even the healthiest and most active seniors that choose to age in place may need some modifications made to their homes in order to live comfortably.
#1: Living Room Modifications
For the living room and any other seating area, consider a self-powered recliner. These types of recliners carefully tilt forward to assist you from seating to standing. As we age, our joints become weaker, making it more difficult to do a simple task such as rising from a seated position. This recliner will put less stress on the joints.
Other modifications for the living room (and maybe the entire home) would be flooring. Hardwood floors tend to be slippery, presenting an opportunity for more falls. On the other hand, thick carpeting can also trigger falls, even with walkers. The ideal flooring should be short carpet that won’t snag on wheels, shoes, etc.
#2: Kitchen Renovations
Depending on each individual’s particular situation, kitchen renovations can be major, minor, or they may not be needed at all. Seniors in wheelchairs will likely need their countertops to be lowered to a comfortable and workable height. Any appliances, such as a microwave, toaster, or coffee maker should also be kept within reaching distance.
Some tech savvy elders may even find it beneficial to incorporate smart appliances into their home. Ovens and dishwashers can be controlled by smartphones, being more convenient. Some smart ovens can even send an alert if there’s food burning inside.
#3: Bathroom Renovations
Probably one of the most common home renovations made for seniors choosing to age in place is the bathtub. Stepping in and out poses a risk for falling, so many seniors replace their standard bathtub/shower with a walk-in bath or walk-in shower. Unfortunately renovations are expensive and not everyone can afford to switch out their bathtub. In this case, a safety bar that allows you to support yourself entering and exiting the tub would be a simple and inexpensive solution. There is also slip-resistant tape that can be placed onto the bottom of the shower to prevent slips and falls.
#4: Bedroom Modifications
Elders who live in two-story homes may want to switch to a downstairs bedroom. Again, stress can be put on the joints from traveling up and down a flight of stairs. Another option is to install a stairlift, a mechanical device that safely lifts seniors up and down the stairs. These are usually used by people with limited mobility, but they can be beneficial for seniors who still have their mobility.
Hoyer lifts are another modification that helps seniors go from a lying to standing position. Many Hoyer lifts do require additional assistance, but there are some that are self powered. These assistive devices are especially helpful for getting seniors out of bed, as lying in bed too long causes several health issues and even death, such as bed sores, especially in nursing homes. So adding this to a bedroom (a self-powered Hoyer lift, if n assistance is available) will be very beneficial to seniors
While all of these modifications provide more ease and convenience, it’s important to keep in mind that seniors who still have full mobility should take advantage of that. Transitioning from sitting to standing is still good exercise for joints, so not all seniors will need a chair that does this for them.
In the same way, avoiding stairs may not be necessary for all seniors, but it is still important to be safe and always use the railing to avoid falling. Staying active while you’re able will decrease your likelihood of being dependent on these modifications later.