Increasingly, seniors are seeking to age in place, rather than live their twilight years in an assisted living facility or nursing home. There are several benefits to aging in place, as seniors who successfully do so can increase their longevity, save money on their care and maintain dignity. While not every senior can age in place, many can, even if it is for just a few more years than usual. Here are some tips on how to help safely enable aging in place.
Aging in place in an existing home
An existing home can be modified for accessibility, which can help a senior move through their home easily. One way to achieve this is by installing grab bars in the bathroom to assist with stepping into and out of the bathtub or shower. They can be placed horizontally, vertically, or diagonally according to preference. Entrance way ramps and handrails are easier on the joints and vital for the disabled. Seniors should also pay particular attention to lighting, as an abundant amount is needed to prevent falls. Whether ambient or task lighting, lighting should remain consistent throughout the home all day to avoid glares and reduce shadows. Light switches should also be easily accessible. Since sleek, hard floors can encourage slipping, non-skid rugs or carpeting are an ideal modification. While widening a doorway can require expensive construction work, there are some less costly options such as hinge extensions that can help accommodate wheelchairs and walkers. Even simple modifications like moving cords toward the walls, replacing soap bars with dispensers, and rearranging furniture can also make significant improvements to home accessibility.
Safety concerns are paramount
Accessibility modifications aren’t just about helping a senior move from room to room. More than one-third of seniors over 65 fall each year. Injuries that result from these falls can make aging in place nearly impossible. Broken hips immobilize and can create high risks for additional problems such as blood clots, infections, and loss of muscle mass. Since seniors are at high risk of falling, accessibility modifications can help extend a senior’s life.
Accessibility modification assistance
Some of the work required to make existing homes accessible is considerable. There are contractors who specialize in senior accessibility. Some of these professionals work directly with occupational therapists to identify the exact modifications that are necessary today and in the near future. They also may have information about sources of funding for some of the repairs. Check with your local government to see if there are grants or reduced-cost options.
Age in place in another home by downsizing
Existing residences are not always the best setting for senior living. A two-story house with upstairs bedrooms can make just getting to bed an ordeal. If a home has more rooms than the senior needs, then it’s possible that housing expenses can be further reduced by downsizing into a safer and more affordable home. Lower utilities, lower taxes, and lower maintenance all contribute positively to a senior’s monthly budget.
A smaller home is also a safer home, as a senior can look to downsize to a single-level home. Removing stairs as an obstacle greatly reduces the risk of falling. Often, ranch-style homes are either easy to convert for step-free entry, or already have a low-threshold entry. Retrofitting a larger home with a ramp can be costly.
There are several options for seniors looking to age in place. Existing homes can be modified to be as comfortable, if not more comfortable than senior housing, and downsizing can help seniors live simply and safely.