Creating a safe environment is one of the most important steps in helping seniors to age place. Typically, this involves things like being proactive in terms of fall prevention, moving seniors from an upstairs bedroom to a first-floor room and making the home as accessible as possible for mobility aids.
However, unless a senior is bedbound, odds are they are spending time in your home or the homes of close friends and family members in addition to their own. In this case, it’s important that all homes are as senior friendly as possible. In fact, this tenet is becoming so widespread that many contractors and remodeling professionals are advocating “livable” home designs – interior designs that are safe and accessible for all.
If you happen to be planning a kitchen or bathroom remodel, talk to the design-build team about accessible or universal design changes that will adapt your kitchen for seniors, children or adults with mobility aids. In addition to making your home safer for senior friends and relatives, you also benefit from a safer and more occupant-friendly environment as well as wider resale appeal.
Things to consider include:
Minimal stairs and easy-access-entryways. Even the slightest of injuries, like a sprained ankle, can make it tricky to navigate stairs. So, imagine what it’s like when you are weaker, suffer from arthritis or have to use a cane or walker on a regular basis. Stairs are in impossibility for those in a wheelchair. For these reasons, accessible homes include at least one, single-level entryway or a gently-sloped ramp so access in and out of the home is both safe and comfortable.
Wider doorways and hallways. Again, mobility aids make it challenging to navigate narrow hallways and doorways. Even access around dining room tables, kitchen islands, perimeter countertops, and living room furniture can be a problem. When arranging furniture or designing permanent features, try to keep a width of at least 32-inches between objects so individuals with walkers, crutches or wheelchairs can maneuver without a struggle.
Slip-free floors. Here’s another area where livable designs make for all-around safer homes. Hard surface flooring can be dangerous for adults and children if they aren’t made using slip-proof materials. This is especially true for kitchens and bathrooms, where wet floors are more common. That being said, hard-surfaces and low-profile carpets are the easiest for the elderly and those with mobility aids to navigate, so be thoughtful of that when choosing flooring surfaces.
Downstairs bedrooms. Even if stairs aren’t impossible to navigate, they can exacerbate latent physical issues – like arthritic knees and hips, weaker muscles or equilibrium challenges. Stairs also make for a much more dangerous fall if seniors lose their balance. If at all possible, senior guests should have access to a downstairs bedroom, even if that means temporarily converting a den, office or child’s room into a guest room.
Re-organize cabinet spaces. If a senior will be staying with you for more than a day or two, or if a senior relative will be moving in, you may need to re-organize your cabinets. Keep everyday dishware, mugs and cooking utensils in easy-to-reach places. Typically, this includes the upper-shelving in bottom cabinets and lower-shelving in the upper-cabinets. The same goes for the bathroom. The ideas is to eliminate as bending/crouching- or requiring a step stool – as much as possible. If you’ are considering a remodel, look into cabinetry with pull-out shelving, which makes storage even more convenient.
Need help making your home more senior-friendly? Consider a consultation with HomeAide Health Care. Our consultations are always free and we’ll leave you with tips and recommendations on simple changes that will make your home more safe and accessible for all of its occupants.