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According to recent studies, as many as 90% of seniors over the age of 65 say they want to stay in their own homes as long as possible, and for many, this idea is appealing for many different reasons. It’s also very doable; with a few modifications and changes, most seniors can ensure their home is safe and comfortable enough to stay there the rest of their days.
One of the most important things to consider when you’re thinking about aging in place is safety. It’s imperative to make some changes around the home, and while for some these modifications will be pretty different, there are many small changes you can make as well that will prevent falls and other hazards. Some of these include:
- Making sure the floors are safe. This means replacing old carpeting with hardwood or laminate flooring to give a sturdy walking surface, removing throw rugs that can be trip hazards, and checking any staircases to make sure they have good solid railings and don’t hold any clutter.
- Adding lighting around the home, especially around stairs, in closets and pantries, and in any dark corners. Natural light is preferable for many seniors, especially if there is an issue with low vision. If your home doesn’t have many windows, consider adding light bulbs that replicate natural lighting.
- Adding safety measures to the bathroom, such as a grab bar in the shower and a non-slip mat in the bathtub. It’s also a good idea to install another non-slip mat on the bathroom floor and, if you have a landline in your home, add a phone low on the wall so you’ll be able to call for help if an accident does occur.
- Look at doorways to make sure they’re wide enough for a wheelchair or walker. Hallways may need to be widened, as well, and this is a big project, so be sure to consult a seasoned contractor if you feel the work needs to be done. You might also consider installing a lift or elevator if your health demands it.
- Take a good look at the kitchen to ensure it will meet your needs should you need a wheelchair or walker; are the countertops low enough for you to be able to sit and prepare food? Is there an island that would get in the way? The kitchen should be wide enough for you to be able to turn around easily in a wheelchair or with a walker, and the floors shouldn’t be covered with throw rugs that could cause falls.
- Shelves in cupboards and pantries should be well organized and well-lit, with cleaning solutions kept far away from food items. There should be a fire extinguisher readily available near the stove.
Aging in place comes with other considerations, as well, such as safety in being alone. Many seniors have found that home-sharing is a wonderful option; this involves having a caregiver rent out a room in the home so that they’ll be available to assist with the more difficult chores as well as helping out should the homeowner become ill or injured. Not only is this an extra safety measure, but having a roommate breaks up the feelings of loneliness that can come with living alone.
Finally, a perk that comes with aging in place is the cost. It’s much cheaper–both for you and for the city you live in–if you’re able to stay in your own home rather than move to an assisted living facility. If you’re relatively healthy and mobile, consider the benefits of staying in your own home.