Are you one of the 90% of seniors who plan to stay in your own home and “age in place”?1 If so, then you’ll want to organize your home to address your current needs, as well as lay the groundwork for a time when you may be less agile or mobile. These basic changes can make your home more comfortable now, while making it more accessible if you need the support of a cane, walker or wheelchair in the future.
Create a welcoming entrance.
There are a few things you can do to make it easier to access your home. Keep the walkway leading up to your home free and clear of toys, tools, or other tripping hazards. Live in a colder climate? Plan ahead to have snow and ice removed promptly, especially from steps and stairs. Even if you don’t use a wheelchair, a ramp or automatic door opener can make getting in and out of your house easier.
Does your home have narrow doorways? Widening them all could be costly, but changing your door hinges to a swing-free style can add two or more inches of clearance relatively inexpensively.
Rearrange the furniture to clear space.
This might seem like a simple concept, but it often gets overlooked. Arrange the furniture to provide wide, unobstructed pathways through rooms. If you’re using a wheelchair, rolling walker or cane, you’ll need more space to maneuver. In fact, if you are in a wheelchair, you need at least a five-foot wide path2 to turn around efficiently.
You’ll also want to remove area rugs and runners, secure cords or wires to walls or place them behind furniture and remove other small decorative items that could trip you.
Extend your reach.
Climbing on step stools or chairs to get to items beyond your reach can put you at risk of falling and injury. Additionally, many older people, or those with arthritis, may find it difficult to get a good grip with their hands. A reacher is made to help you grab what you need, whether it’s a book from the top of the bookshelf or a sock from under the bed.
Prepare your bathroom.
A few items added to your bathroom can make it safer and easier to navigate. If it’s difficult to stand on your own for the duration of your shower, a shower bench is a great solution. It provides you with a comfortable place to sit, and the rubber-tipped legs help keep the bench from sliding in the wet tub or on the shower floor.
If you need help getting in and out of the tub to shower or bathe, grab bars added to your tub wall can be useful. They require no tools to install and provide an easy to grip handle for the transition between floor and tub.
If your toilet seat is too low - and your knees hurt when getting up and down - try adding a raised toilet seat. It locks right onto your standard toilet and adds 5” to the height, giving your knees some relief while the handles give you extra support.
Organize your kitchen.
In a kitchen, even a few minor changes can make a difference in usability. Move the items you use every day for prepping meals or snacks within easy reach. If there is not enough room for everything you need on nearby shelves and cabinets, a raptor style reacher can help. Lightweight and durable, its unique shape is contoured to pick up both large pots and small utensils. If you use a wheelchair, make a place for yourself at the table by removing a chair and leaving the space to roll right up for meals.
Add support to your bedroom.
Getting in and out of bed can be a challenge without a little help. A bed assist bar is an easy way to help lower or raise yourself from the bed. It’s easy to install, sliding under the mattress with straps provided for extra security. The soft handle makes it easy and comfortable to grip, plus there is a pocket provided for storing personal items.
Keeping your home accessible is worth the effort.
Making a few minor changes now to add accessibility to your home can assist you in staying there comfortably, safely and independently as you age. As you make these changes, take the opportunity to evaluate your home for more extensive changes that may be required for your comfort in the future. Consult with a space planner or interior designer who specializes in accessible design for additional ideas and expertise. Being able to stay in the home you love is worth the effort.
1The United States of Aging Survey (2012). Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/livable-communities/old-learn/research/the-united-states-of-aging-survey-2012-aarp.pdf
2Graham, J. (2017, January 26). How To Make A Home Much More Friendly To Seniors Using Wheelchairs Or Walkers. Kaiser Health News. Retrieved from