04 Dec Aging in Place
Aging in place has become a popular concept over the last decade as members of the baby boom generation enter their senior years. Most older adults want to stay in their own homes as they age. In fact, according to a 2012 survey conducted by AARP, about 90% of seniors planned to stay in their current homes for the next several years.
Unlike their parents who often relocated to retirement communities in Sunbelt states, baby boomers want to age in place for many reasons. This includes: liking where they live; enjoying having family and friends nearby; avoiding the hassle and trauma of moving; and being unable to afford the cost of a move.
Is Aging in Place Right for You?
While you may prefer to remain in your home for as long as possible this may not be the best decision especially if a home requires you to climb stairs, step over a bathtub to shower, mow a yard, or shovel snow. These daily tasks can all become a fall hazard as you age. Injury Facts 2017 (a statistical report on unintentional injuries created by the National Safety Council) notes falls are the leading cause of injury-related death for adults age 65 and older. More than 33,000 people died from falls in 2015, and the vast majority of them were over age 65.
In addition to your physical safety, staying in your home can affect your psychological health. As adult children become busy with their growing families, and long-term friends and neighbors face their own health challenges or move away you may become lonelier and more isolated. And this can lead to depression. Moving to an active senior community is a great way to meet new friends and make vital social connections. These communities offer many avenues to socialize such as pools, spas, fitness centers, tennis/pickleball, golf, all kinds of classes, restaurants, hiking clubs, and walking paths.
Aging in Place Tips
If you do decide to remain in your home, especially as you enter your 80s, consider the following adjustments to make it as safe as possible:
Stairs: Ideally, it is best for seniors to live in a home in which there are no stairs. However, if you must climb stairs, install handrails on both sides of the stairway for increased stability. Consider putting in LED lights at the base of each stair to provide illumination. Install a chair lift which gives people with limited mobility the ability to remain in a two-story home. Generally, the cost is about $3,000 to $4,000 and lifts can fit a straight or curved shape stairway. While expensive, this is less than the cost of adding an elevator which runs about $20,000. For stairs leading to the main exterior entrance of your home, consider building a ramp to allow accessibility for a wheelchair, walker, or someone with limited mobility. Install handrails on both sides. A ramp will not only make entering the home easier but it will also help reduce the risk of a fall from stairs.
Bathrooms: Bathrooms are one of the most dangerous rooms in the home for seniors. Walking on slippery hard surfaces, getting in/out of a bathtub or shower, and using the toilet leads to thousands of fatal and nonfatal injuries every year.
- Use non-slip adhesive strips or a mat in the bath or shower.
- Install grab bars in the tub, shower, and near the toilet.
- Install a stable shower seat.
- Use a low profile, non-skid bath mat. A traditional bath mat can eventually lose its non-skid backing from repeated washings. Try using a kitchen mat instead.
- Hire a bath remodeling company or contractor to install aging and accessibility solutions including converting a standard bathtub to a safe, accessible walk-in type.
Other Improvements: Widen doorways to 32 inches to accommodate a wheelchair. Change out all round doorknobs and faucet handles to lever type handles for an easier grasp.