When most people think of a safe home, they think of a safe neighborhood and a home that doesn’t need any major repairs. Some may also think of the indoor air quality (IAQ) of a home, meaning the air is free of pollutants and safe to breathe. But what slippery surfaces, sharp corners, and stairs?
These are factors that many senior citizens have to (or should) consider when they’re planning on remaining in their homes as opposed to moving into assisted living. This is known as aging in place, and here’s what makes a safe home (and a good candidate) for aging in place.
Preparing Your Home For Aging In Place
The majority of senior citizens prefer to continue living in their homes and almost never want to move into assisted living— specifically nursing homes. This is largely due to the fact that many nursing home residents have been victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse, and/or neglect.
Seniors are also likely to experience falls in nursing homes, but they’re more likely to experience falls in their own home. Overall, a clutter-free home can prevent these falls, but here are some other ways to prevent falls and other accidents in the home.
The bathroom is one of the most common places for seniors to have the most serious falls within the home, because of the hard and slippery surfaces. The bathtub/shower is usually the biggest concern. Some seniors may need to only install grab bars and slip-resistant strips in the shower, while others may need these in addition to a shower chair and/or a walk-in shower.
Some may assume that soft, plush carpet is the best type of flooring to have in a senior’s home, but it’s actually one of the worst. The biggest reasons are that carpet is very hard to clean, and thick carpeting creates a falling hazard. Instead, opt for low-pile carpet that won’t snag on the wheels of a walker or wheelchair. For kitchens and bathrooms, since carpet can be placed in these rooms, vinyl flooring is best— it isn’t as hard as other hard flooring and it’s waterproof.
Dim lighting can make it very hard for seniors to see as they’re moving throughout their home. This increases the risk of falling as well, so it’s important to have good lighting. LED light bulbs (although more expensive) are a good option as compared to incandescent light bulbs. LED bulbs last longer, are more energy efficient, and are brighter.
Finally, if you have stairs in your home, you may want to consider how you’ll be able to move from one floor to another. Although many seniors retain most of their mobility as they age, it can still be taxing to walk up and down stairs. For this reason, consider a stair lift that can safely transport you up and down the stairs. If you’re willing to spend a little more, you can also have a sleek residential elevator installed in your home.
Preparing You For Aging In Place
Now that you’ve considered what your home needs, it’s time to consider your needs. Not everyone makes a good candidate for aging in place. Those with serious health issues that prevent them from properly caring for themselves cannot safely age in place. On the other hand, those that are able to care for themselves most consider both physical and mental health.
As we age, we’re more likely to experience age-related illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, dementia, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), cancer, and age-related macular degeneration. Fortunately, many of these illnesses can be avoided or controlled with healthy eating habits, abstaining from bad habits (such as smoking), and remaining physically active.
For the best chances, start these healthy habits as soon as possible. However, it’s never too late to start living a healthier lifestyle.
Senior citizens are at a higher risk of depression, especially if they become isolated. This can easily happen when a senior is aging in place, especially if he or she lives alone. Make sure that you and the seniors in your life become and remain active in the community. When seniors have a strong support system, they’re more likely to be happier and healthier while aging in place.
Overall, a healthy lifestyle (both physically and mentally) is what makes a senior a good candidate for aging in place. This, combined with a hazard-free home allows seniors to remain in their homes safely and comfortably.