Act Today to Make Your Home Suitable for Tomorrow
Most older adults want and expect to continue to live in their current home as they age. What many—if not most—do not take into account is that their home as it exists today may not support their needs in the future. The reality is one in eight adults age 65 and over (four in 10 by age 85) will experience significant difficulty with one or more of the normal activities of daily living. Moving around inside the home, getting in and out of bed, bathing and using the bathroom—once accomplished easily—can become difficult because of an illness or injury or simply the passage of time. Remaining in the home may mean that modifications will be needed – often quickly, with little chance to plan.
Fall Risk Increases the Need
One out of four older Americans falls each year and, according to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of accidental injury and death for this group. The risk of falls increases for those taking medications that may cause dizziness, such as blood pressure drugs, antidepressants and sleeping pills. Living in a home that is not safe and suitable for anyone—regardless of age or physical ability—also increases the risk of falls.
Get Your Home Ready for the Future
To see how ready your home is to support what the future may bring, the AARP HomeFit Guide is a good resource. It uses a sensible room-by-room approach to evaluate the ability of your home to support aging in place. There are checklists for every room that identify areas that may need attention or modification.
Many modifications are not expensive and can be done a homeowner with minimal assistance. Some examples:
Arrange furniture to allow for easy passage; provide for at least 32 inches of clear width.
Install night-lights in areas used after dark, such as hallways and bathrooms.
Check the wattage ratings on lamps and light fixtures, and install the brightest bulbs allowed, especially in passage areas. Money saved on the electric bill may turn out to be a false economy.
Remove all clutter from stairs and landings. Check the carpeting on stairs to be sure it’s firmly attached. Apply nonslip adhesive strips to uncarpeted stair treads.
Remove all throw rugs. If this is not possible, use double-sided tape to secure them to the floor.
Place electrical and phone cords along a wall where they won’t be a tripping hazard.
Install a rubber-suction bathmat or anti-slip floor strips or decals in the tub and shower.
Set the hot water heater to 120°F or below to prevent scalding (and save energy costs).
Install a hand-held showerhead for easier bathing.
If it isn’t possible to have a phone within easy reach most of the time—especially in the bedroom—consider acquiring a Personal Emergency Response System with a pendant you can carry at all times.
Some recommended modifications will require a skilled contractor, someone skilled in the building trades or a handy relative. A few examples:
Mount grab bars next to the toilet and bathtub and in the shower.
Install a handrail on both sides of any staircase.
Replace knobs on cabinets and drawers with easier-to-grip D-shaped handles.
Replace or remove worn, torn or loose carpeting.
Modify showers or bathtubs for no-step entry.
Spending the time to do an honest analysis of how well your current home is ready to support your possible future needs is a good investment, one that will pay off quickly if you are able to reduce fall risk. The resources below can help you get started.
The AARP HomeFit Guide
Published in 2015 by AARP, the guide was created to help people stay in the home they love by turning where they live into a “lifelong home,” suitable for themselves and anyone in their household. It offers solutions that range from simple do-it-yourself fixes to improvements that require skilled expertise. The guide is available for free download at tinyurl.com/homefit. To order a free printed copy, call AARP at 888-687-2277 and request publication D18959.
Aging in Place Remodeling Checklist
Published by the National Association of Home Builders, this checklist provides a list of features to consider for an aging in place remodeling project. It also offers a directory to locate Certified Aging in Place Specialists, building industry professionals who hold active NAHB educational designation for professionals who specialize in home modifications for aging in place. The checklist is available online at tinyurl.com/nahbchecklist.
Central Illinois Agency on Aging
Contact Mitchell Forrest, Family Caregiver Information and Assistance Specialist, Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging, for information on Peoria area companies that offer remodeling services. Phone: (309) 674-2071. Email: MForrest@ciaoa.net.
Many home care agencies provide a complementary home safety check, which addresses many of the safety and suitability questions identified above, as part of their services. For more information and a no-charge consultation, call AC Skylines Home Care Services at (309) 689-5343 or send email to BCowley@acskylines.org. Visit www.acskylineshomecare.org or Facebook.com/ACskylinesHomeCare.