Making adjustments that reduce the chances of injury and increase accessibility are the keys to allowing us or our parents to age in place very gracefully. We all make adjustments to our habits as we age, and we need to do the same for our homes if you or your parents want to stay put.
The bathroom is the site of far too many accidents. Falls on wet or uneven surfaces become more dangerous and more consequential later in life. Some ideas your contractor may have for you are:
Raise the toilet to the most convenient height for you or add grab bars to assist with getting up and down.
Make sure carpets, rugs, or floor coverings are secure — especially around the edges. A ripple in the carpet can easily cause a fall or misstep, which could be much worse. Consider installing vertical grab bars next to the bed for stability. If your Mom or Dad tends to run into things or not see as well as they used to, you could pad or get rid of sharp edges and corners on furniture and fixtures. Also, make sure lighting is accessible from multiple locations — especially near the bed — so he or she never has to walk in the dark.
Something as simple as a few changes to the doors in the home can be a huge help. Large, heavy doors should be replaced with more manageable ones. Consider something hollow or without glass. A nice touch can often be replacing doorknobs with lever handles so arthritic hands can grasp them easily. Locks can easily be moved to the most convenient level for wheelchairs, scooters or a shrinking family member. Eliminate rises and steps leading up to doors in the entranceway and make sure doorways are fully illuminated to avoid any missteps.
Uneven surfaces or steps can provide a daunting hazard for those that mobility is becoming more of a challenge — consider installing graduated ramps in their place. Apply contrasting colors to indicate areas where there’s a change in texture or flooring material is not only beneficial for an aging population, but for the larger population as well. Add non-slip surfaces on and around staircases. Install handrails throughout walkways and widen entrances leading into and out of the home to accommodate walkers, wheelchairs, and scooters.
“Aging in place” is a homeowner’s strategy for living in their golden years with dignity. No one wants to spend a life building a home only to have to abandon it because the house amenities no longer safely accommodate their lifestyle. Avoid the burden of taking on multiple renovations at once by planning ahead now. It’s possible to prevent injuries and accidents before they happen by simply improving the accessibility, safety and usability of your home. Making these gradual changes years in advance and at your own pace is the key to future-proofing your home.