Home is a place of comfort and warmth, a place of safety, familiarity, and connection. It’s only natural then that people would want to remain in their own homes for as long as they can – preferably until the end of their lives. And that’s increasingly possible nowadays – modern technology and wider availability of services, such as meal delivery services and in-home care services, are making it ever easier for seniors to age in place and maintain an independent lifestyle.
As people age, however, their homes may need remodeling in order to create an environment that accommodates their changing needs. There are many improvements that can be made to a home to make it safer and more functional for older adults. By implementing efficient house modifications for the elderly, today’s seniors can continue to live where they’re happiest without putting their safety and well-being at risk.
Some of the necessary modifications are simple adjustments or upgrades, while others are larger scale projects – but they all aim at creating an elderly-friendly home.
Home Safety Risks for Seniors
As people get older, their health starts to decline and their abilities diminish. It becomes necessary to evaluate the way their everyday life is changing and assess the potential risks in their homes.
Common problems for seniors:
- Mobility – A lot of seniors have difficulty walking, climbing stairs, and navigating uneven or slippery surfaces. Moving around the home becomes a challenge as steps, thresholds, slick floors, cords and cables, and even thick carpets and area rugs turn into slipping, tripping, and falling hazards;
- Vision – Seniors need about three times more light than younger people in order to see clearly. Many have serious eye problems as well. Insufficient lighting can, therefore, hinder older adults from doing their daily tasks and even result in severe accidents;
- Hearing – Hearing loss often affects the elderly and can lead to dangerous situations (such as if a senior doesn’t hear the fire alarm, for example).
Risky areas within the home:
- Bathrooms – Many bathrooms have slippery tile floors and tubs that are too high or showers that have an edge which is very difficult to step over;
- Kitchens – Sharp countertop edges, outdated appliances, and slick tiles can jeopardize the safety of the elderly and lead to injuries and accidents;
- Doorways – Changes in floor height between a hallway and a doorway present a big tripping hazard;
- Walkways – Wires and cables, piles of clutter, and other obstacles along the walkways pose a great risk of tripping and falling;
- Stairways – Steep staircases, inadequate railings, poor lighting, and unsecured rugs on or near the top and bottom of stairs can all contribute to falls and injuries.
Each home is unique, so there may be many other safety hazards within a senior’s house as well. Once the risks have been identified, adequate measures must be taken to ensure the safety of the elderly.
Elderly-Friendly Home Additions
There are many different improvements and upgrades that can be implemented in a home to make it more accessible, more comfortable, and safer for older adults:
1) Walk-in showers and tubs – A walk-in shower or tub eliminates the problem of having to step over a high edge when getting in and out of a shower or tub, reducing the risk of falling in the bathroom. Walk-in showers are flush with the floor and have no curb to step over, so they can be walked straight into – an ideal solution for people with mobility issues. Walk-in tubs or tubs with slide-down walls are also very suitable for the elderly, as they’re extremely safe and easy to use. It’s a good idea to include handheld shower heads and install built-in benches in the shower stalls as well.
2) Grab bars – A grab bar in a risky area greatly reduces the risk of falls and injuries from slipping. Grab bars in the bathroom, near the toilet, and along kitchen walls (as well as anywhere else in the home where there are slippery floors) help the elderly steady themselves and move around more easily and more confidently. There’s no definite height requirement for installing grab bars as everyone has different needs, but it is considered best to set them up at 33-36 inches off the floor.
3) Handrails – Handrails provide solid support and lessen the danger of walking up and down stairs. For maximum safety, railings must be installed along both sides of all interior and exterior stairways and should extend far enough at the top and bottom of the steps that a person can get a good grip before committing to the first step. Keep in mind that many original stair banisters may not be strong enough to support an adult’s body weight – they need to be checked and reinforced or extended if necessary.
4) Slip-resistant flooring – Applying anti-slip coatings to the flooring and placing non-skid strips or decals in bathrooms, foyers, stairways, kitchens, and other areas where the floor often gets slippery considerably lowers the risk of slipping and falling. It is also advisable to secure area rugs in the home (or remove them completely) and opt for low-pile carpets that are easier and safer to walk on (especially for walkers and wheelchairs).
5) Transition strips – Low-profile hardwood transition strips between a hallway and a room entry help even out the difference in floor height, eliminating the risk of tripping over the threshold. In fact, stepless entryways are the best solution for people with mobility issues.
6) Aging-Friendly Hardware – Door knobs, cabinet hardware, and plumbing fixtures that can be comfortably used without using too much force allow for greater comfort and safety in a senior’s home – lever-style doorknobs are easier to use in old age; freeze- and scald-protection valves on bathroom and kitchen faucets come very handy to the elderly; etc.
7) Proper illumination – A poorly-lit home hides a lot of dangers to older adults. It is, therefore, of paramount importance that there is plenty of light in the house, especially in spaces like hallways, bathrooms, stairs, and entrances. It’s advisable to:
- Remove heavy window coverings to allow more natural light inside the home;
- Install window blinds so that the senior can alter the direction and amount of natural light entering the home;
- Set up lighting fixtures that contain two light bulbs in risky areas of the home (in case one bulb dies out);
- Install nightlights in the bathrooms, bedrooms, and hallways to make it easier and safer for seniors to move around at night;
- Install motion-activated light fixtures that brighten up essential areas of the home without requiring the flipping of a switch;
- Install flat, wide rocker switches throughout the home (instead of standard, narrow toggle switches that are more difficult to flip);
- Install dimmers and use different wattages throughout the home so that the elderly can easily adapt the lighting as needed, depending on the time of day and the amount of natural light available at the moment;
- Install task lighting fixtures such as table lamps, floor lamps, under-cabinet lighting, and overhead kitchen sink lights to better illuminate work and hobby areas.
Other helpful home adaptations for elderly include:
- Wider doorways that can accommodate walkers and wheelchairs if necessary;
- Push-button appliances that are very easy to operate;
- Televisions, clocks, telephones, stoves, and microwaves with large numbers on well-lit displays that make it easier for seniors to see and operate those devices;
- Doorbells, smoke detectors, and telephones that light up when activated to provide a visual alert in addition to the audible sound;
- Stair lifts that eliminate the dangerous and exhausting task of going up and down stairs;
- Raised electrical outlets (at about 24 inches off the ground) that can be accessed from a seated position and are very convenient to use; etc.
All house modifications for elderly should be made by experienced, trustworthy professionals.
Senior Home Care Services
The above-described senior-friendly home improvements can help the elderly maintain a safe and independent lifestyle in the comfort of their own residences. Yet, they may still need some type of care or assistance in order to stay healthy and comfortable while continuing to live at home.
This is where senior home care comes in. Professional caregivers offer a wide variety of services to ensure the safety and comfort of the elderly and provide personal companionship to keep them entertained and socially engaged.
Assisting Hands Home Care offers quality in-home care services to seniors in the Batavia, IL area who have chosen to age in place. We complete a safety evaluation of the home and assess the specific needs of the person to form a comprehensive care plan. Our skillful, compassionate caregivers provide the elderly with personalized care and emotional support, so they can safely and comfortably live at home.
If your elderly relatives in the Batavia, IL area are aging in place but need some extra assistance, contact Assisting Hands Home Care at (630) 332-2203 for our senior home care services – we will ensure the safety, comfort, and well-being of your loved ones.