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Aging in Place: Living out Your Years in Your Home

Aging in Place: Living out Your Years in Your Home

Defined by the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level,” aging in place has gained popularity in recent years. Many Americans plan to live independent lives in their homes for as long as they can, rather than relocating to smaller apartments or assisted living facilities.

Successfully aging in place requires homemakers to consider how to ensure their homes remain accessible. Mobility issues affect over two-thirds of people aged 65 and older, according to the United States’ Census Bureau. Difficulty walking and climbing stairs can impair your ability to live independently while increasing the risk of falling injuries.

Aging in place house plans may be as simple as rearranging furniture to eliminate tripping hazards or as involved as installing residential home elevators. In either case the goal is the same: to ensure you can age in place in a safe, comfortable environment.

Making Aging in Place Plans

Take the time to really consider your aging in place plans. A little forethought and prevention greatly increases your chances of staying in your home for years. As you make plans for the future, consider the following:

Entering and exiting your home

Do you need to use stairs to access your home? If so, you may want to consider adding railings, a ramp, or a lift to make entering and exiting the home easier. Repairing cracks on pathways leading to the house reduces the risk of tripping and falling outdoors. In the winter, ask a friend or relative to keep pathways free of snow and ice, or hire a reliable local teen or snow removal service to do the job for you.

Stairways and Upper Levels

Consider how you will access rooms on upper or lower levels if you have mobility problems. Stairs pose a challenge to many seniors, especially when carrying laundry baskets or other loads. Unless you live in a bungalow, your aging in place plans should include ways to utilize all levels of your home safely.

Residential home elevators and stair lifts easily transport passengers from one floor to the next. Wheelchair lifts are a must for people who cannot walk without assistance. If you decide to install a home elevator, remember the shaft and machine room of the lift takes up space. In smaller homes, a shaftless home elevator is a compact solution to mobility issues. Shaftless elevators require minimal home alterations and are best suited for someone who has difficulty with stairs but does not require a walker or wheelchair.

Flooring and rugs

Take a careful look at your existing flooring material and evaluate its potential for slips and falls. Rugs especially can create tripping hazards in primary pathways through the home. Try to create pathways that are not obstructed by furniture or other items.

Lighting

Adequate lighting is vital for all high traffic areas in your home. You can install “runway” lights along the sides of halls to assist with navigation at night. Motion-detecting lights are also useful if you plan to age in place.

Bathroom safety

The CDC reports an estimated 234,094 accidents happen in the bathroom every year, with the risk of injury increasing with age. Adequate grab rails next to toilets, in showers, and in bathtubs reduce your risk of falls, as do non-slip mats. You may want to consider replacing bathtubs with walk-in showers for better accessibility.

Additional remodeling

Depending on your needs, other areas of the home may need remodeling. Take a close look at your bathroom, kitchen, and other rooms to identify possible obstacles to independent living in your later years. Grab bars can be installed in hallways as well as bathrooms, for instance.

Lifestyle Changes and Aging in Place

Take the time to really consider your aging in place plans. A little forethought and prevention greatly increases your chances of staying in your home for years. As you make plans for the future, consider the following:

  • Household chores: Will you need help with certain chores, both in the home and in the yard? Housekeeping and gardening services are possible solutions, as is asking family for help. Some grocery stores, drug stores, and drycleaners now offer home delivery. A robot vacuum cleaner helps keep the house clean.
  • Personal care: How will changes to your mobility affect your ability to bathe, wash, and dress yourself? Dressing aids such as sock sliders, button hook aids, and dressing sticks help you maintain your independence, as do bath chairs, tap turners, and bath lifts. Friends and family may be able to help with personal care, or you can hire a trained aide to come in and assist you once a day.
  • Cooking: The ability to prepare nutritious meals is an important part of aging in place. Cut-resistant gloves help prevent accidents preparing food, while electric jar openers, ergonomic can openers, and grabber sticks are handy kitchen tools. Auto shut-off ovens provide extra security. If cooking becomes too difficult, meal delivery programs exist to deliver food right to your door: many are either free to seniors or come with low costs.
  • Health: As we age, it’s common for our health issues to increase. Pill holders help track medication, while smart devices such as FitBits monitor blood pressure, heart rate, and other vitals. Wearable emergency alert devices allow you to contact family members of emergency services should you need assistance.
  • Social life: As you plan the remodeling projects and lifestyle changes needed to age in place, it’s easy to forget to consider your social life. Older adults have a high risk of social isolation. Many reasons for this exist, but loss of family and friends, limited mobility, hearing loss, and chronic illness all play their roles. Social isolation increases the risk of premature death, dementia, and depression. Give some thought to how you’ll remain socially active as you age in place: church groups, volunteer work, and clubs offer possibilities, as does arranging for reliable transport and companion care.

Planning ahead to ensure you have easy access to all areas of your home makes it possible to carry out your aging in place plans. If you have questions or need assistance, a Certified Aging in Place Specialist can help you determine how to modify your home so you can stay there for years to come.

You can make many modifications to your home yourself, but when it comes to providing access to all floors of the house, you’ll need assistance. Check out a Home Elevator Design Center and reach out to a local home elevator company, many of whom have Certified Aging in Place Specialists on staff, to receive a free consultation.

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1 thought on “Aging in Place: Living out Your Years in Your Home”

  1. Thanks a ton for this well-articulated write up. I was really in dire need of something like this. It is surely going to help my mom a lot to live longer in her own house.

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