Checklist for Aging in Place
The overwhelming majority of people aged 50 and older would choose to remain in their own homes as they age. It’s a growing trend called “aging in place,” and according to a comprehensive report put together by AARP in 2010, aging in place can be “determined by the physical design and accessibility of the home, as well as community features such as the availability of nearby services and amenities, affordable housing and transportation options.” While there may not be many things you can do to change the senior-friendly features of your community, there are many things you can do to make your house friendlier to aging in place.
The following check list will ensure that you will be able to live comfortably and safely in your own home as you age.
1. Consider your floor plan. If you don’t live in a ranch-style home, rethinking your floor plan might come in handy down the line. Stairs can get increasingly difficult to navigate as you age, and have proven to be a major fall risk for older folks. In order to work around the necessity of a second floor, make sure that you can have access to everything you need for living on a single story, including a full bath.
2. Let there be light. A well-lit home is a safe home, so the addition of night lights to dark hallways and stairwells will help you as you age. A large percentage of falls occur at night, when you are not fully awake or rushing to get to the bathroom, and carefully placed lights will help you stay on your feet after dark.
3. Hold steady. The bathroom is another danger zone; water can make tiles slippery and having to climb in or out of a tub can become a concern as you age. Making small changes to your bathroom in order to prevent slips, trips, and falls can keep you healthier in the long run. Changes to consider include adding grab bars on the walls near the toilet and in the shower, investing in a walk-in tub, and strategically placing non-slip mats on the floors of both the bathroom and the shower/tub.
4. Invest in a medical alert device. Many people are hesitant to see the value in a medical alert system because of the stigma associated with them thanks to the “fallen and can’t get up” TV commercials of the past. Over the years, these devices have come a long way and now are more technologically advanced than ever before. They are affordable, reliable, and a guaranteed way to remain in your own home longer.
5. Clear the throughways. It’s easy to get lazy and allow piles of laundry, mail, magazines or newspapers, and general clutter to pile up around the house. But these can pose major tripping hazards, which lead to falls. Making an effort to de-clutter your living space will greatly reduce your risk of accidents, injuries and even fires. If you have area rugs, you’ll also want to make sure that they are securely fastened to the floors, as they tend to buckle and can also cause falls.
6. Make upgrades for the hard-of-hearing. If you or your loved ones are concerned about hearing loss, you can purchase a doorbell/telephone flashing-light signaler. This device enables a ringing telephone or doorbell to trigger a flashing light to let them know they have a call or a visitor.
7. Check your batteries. As in, the batteries in all smoke alarms or Carbon Monoxide detectors. It might seem shocking, but a package of double A batteries can save your life. The Centers for Disease Control reports that 85 percent of all U.S. fire deaths occurred in homes and “over one-third (37%) of home fire deaths occur in homes without smoke alarms.”
8. Exercise. Unlike the previous tips, this is something that won’t cost you a thing! Just a 30-minute walk everyday is enough to make an impact, although it’s also recommended to work in balance exercises to strengthen your core, along with light weights. Fitness can play a major role in how you age, and making the extra effort to stay in shape can not only help you stay in your home longer, but it can also help you sleep better, boost your energy and relieve stress.