Aging in Place Home Improvements
The term “Aging in place” refers to the preference of most adults that they remain in their home of choice as long as possible. In fact, 90 percent of adults over the age of 65 report that they would prefer to stay in their current residence as they age. Many considerations regarding aging in place, such as health and wellness, general assistance, and transportation are outside the realm of remodeling. This article focuses on home improvements and remodeling that facilitate the ability to stay in one’s home and provide resources.
As we age, our bodies and capabilities change. Examples of changes you might experience are:
- Reduced vision and hearing
- Decreased muscle strength or endurance
- Reduced mental processing capabilities
- Increased risk of falls due to balance
- Increased risk of illness
- Decreased mobility
Some or all of these changes happen to most everyone. Knowing that this is the case and choosing to have a plan to allow you to stay in your home means you will have a greater chance to control your quality of life and independence. Planning also presents you with an opportunity to lessen the burden on your family by outlining how and where your needs are met as well as, lessening the need for emergency assistance from community resources.
When we’re vibrant and independent, we rarely give consideration to aging-in-place concerns. However, it’s best to make changes in advance rather than when there is a crisis. Many of these ideas could benefit everyone, not just the elderly, but they become increasingly important, as we age. Here are three areas to consider as a starting point for aging in place changes to your home: Decluttering, Accessibility and Safety.
The first step in facilitating aging in place improvements in your home is decluttering. Decluttering will allow you to assess how much space you really need if you are considering downsizing to a smaller home or retirement community.
AARP’s HomeFit Guide offers advice on how to prepare a home for aging in place and reminds us that decluttering and organizing your belongings while you are young enough to tackle the job allows you to:
- Access what you want easily.
- Enjoy memories stored in mementos, photos, letters, videos and other treasures.
- Reorganize possessions for safe reach.
- Maneuver more easily through the home in case you become disabled.
Once you have tackled decluttering your home, look for ways to organize your items to make them accessible. To make things easy to reach, you’ll want storage that’s not too high and not too close to the floor. If you’re able to remodel your kitchen, the AARP suggests that you hang your upper cabinets 12 to 15 inches above the countertop instead of the normal 18 inches and place your lower cabinets six inches above the floor.
You could also install Pull Down Shelving in existing upper cabinets. For lower cabinets, adding rollout shelves (or replacing the cabinets with drawers) can make things much more accessible. Anne-Marie Brunet at Next Avenue provides numerous examples of how lower cabinets can be replaced or redesigned.
When it comes to the clothes closets, storage solutions that get the shoes off the floor are generally a good idea since bending becomes harder with age. Pull-down closet rods can make clothes easier to reach in closets where the rods are fairly high. Most people will be satisfied with far simpler solutions, but it’s still interesting to see the innovative storage products that are available to keep things within easy reach.
Safety and Lighting
There are many risks for injury to older adults in the household that impact their ability to successfully age in place. Among the greatest threats is falling. According to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of injuries leading to death among older adults. Common features in an everyday household, such as a lack of support in the shower or bathroom, inadequate railings on the stairs, loose throw rugs, and obstructed pathways, and poor lighting are all possible dangers to an older person.
Additional railings, grab bars, a hand-held shower head, walk-in bathtubs, curb-less showers with seats, nonskid flooring, removal of throw rugs and clutter, and increased lighting with accessible 3-way switches are all improvements that will create a safer environment.
Seniors need two to three times as much light to see as well as younger people. Low lighting may contribute to slips, trips and falls by lowering visibility of hazards such as unexpected steps or sudden changes in floor surfaces. Ways to increase light in the home include:
- Consider toe-kick lighting in the bathroom or kitchen to provide visual cuing and an additional reference point for judging distance or depth when entering a space or approaching objects.
- Add a skylights or solar tubes in dim hallways or dark rooms.
- For nightlights, SnapPower makes an outlet cover with a built- in night light.
For more lighting recommendations, check out Lamps Plus 25 Lighting Tips for Seniors.
Decluttering and Organizing
StorageMotion Inc. is a company that is dedicated to creating all types of products that improve closet and home design and dramatically increase the amount of useable space. Their products are automatic and power-assisted so that anyone can use them.
Whether you have thirty seconds, one minute, five minutes, or fifteen minutes, this organizing daily devotional offers tips, checklists, weekend projects, quizzes, and encouragement that will help you find the time, motivation, and permission to let go of sentimental clutter, set up storage solutions, and establish routines that make sense for your life.
National Association of Home Builders
We are fortunate to have several quality senior programs in the Bay Area, including Avenidas Village.
Avenidas supports seniors in various aspects of senior living. Last year, as an approved contractor, Hammerschmidt Construction was invited to participate at their vendor fair. It was at this fair that we found a comprehensive check-list of Home Safety Recommendations for Aging-in-Place, complements of Nancy Goldcamp from Coldwell Banker.
Did you know that seniors and the homebound residing on the Peninsula and in the South Bay may request free assistance with household tasks through REALTOR® Service Volunteer Program (RSVP)?
2016 RSVP week will be in May. (Look for more info in the Los Altos Town Crier next month)
RSVP 2015 sample BROCHURE
Senior Helpers is an in-home care-giving franchise that recently moved to Los Altos. They offer personal care and companion services.