Aging in Place – Home Safety Considerations

Health & Well Being

Nearly 2 in 3 adults are hoping to age in place – to stay in their current home as long as possible. And while concerns about retirement income and personal health may make it difficult for some to do so, aging in place is clearly top of mind for older Americans.

It’s important to be realistic about the challenges of aging in place. Easy access to transportation for trips to the store or to medical appointments will become increasingly important. Familiarity with, and comfort using technology like video calling and email will be key to keeping in touch with family and friends when you need help. And you’ll need to be honest with yourself about health or mobility issues that may put a damper on your plans.

Just like retirement planning, creating a game plan to age in place takes time and foresight. If you’re confident that you’re prepared for the points mentioned above, it’s time to move on to the more creative and fun aspect of aging in place. This post covers some of the many things you’ll need to consider about your home and the changes you may need to make to ensure your continued safety and comfort.

Aging in Place – Space by Space

Exterior

It’s easy to get excited about sprucing up and renovating your home’s interior, but don’t forget about adjustments or considerations for the exterior, too.

Roof, shingles, siding, and windows – All in good condition? In need of repair?
Walkways and driveway – Any cracks, breaks or areas that could contribute to a fall?
Gates or fences – Are they easy to open? Do they lock securely?
Garage – Is there a safe path from your garage to your house (especially important for unattached garages)?
Lighting – Is there sufficient light to see your way in after dark?
Yard – Will you continue to care for your yard and plants, or will you need help?
House number – Is your home clearly marked with the house number visible for deliveries or first responders?
Steps and railings – Will you be able to use your current setup or might you need a ramp? Are the railings stable and easy to reach?

Interior

Now that you’ve checked out the exterior, move on to the interior. Go room by room and think about the things you may want to check or change.

Entryway

  • Free of area rugs or anything else that might trip you?
  • Is the flooring slip resistant (in case you’re coming in with wet shoes}?
  • Is there a light switch within easy reach to turn on when coming in after dark?

 

Kitchen

  • Take a look at your microwave, stove, dishwasher, and other appliances. Are the dials and controls easy to read?
  • Are cabinets easy to reach without relying on a step stool (or chair)?
  • Is there sufficient lighting above the sink, stove and countertops?
  • Do you have a smoke detector (and easy-to-operate fire extinguisher) in the kitchen?
  • Are the curtains or shades easy to reach, open and close?
  • Is the flooring in good condition, without loose tiles or raised edges that might cause a fall?

 

Bathroom

Most accidents at home happen in the bathroom, so it’s important to give this area special attention.

  • Do you have non-slip material in your shower or tub?
  • If you have a tub, is it low access for easy entry and exit?
  • Is the bathroom flooring slip-resistant?
  • Do you have grab bars in the tub and near the toilet?
  • Are your cabinets and medicine cabinet easy to reach?
  • Are the curtains or shades easy to reach, open and close?
  • While not always possible, most experts recommend that your bathroom be on the same floor as your bedroom.

Bedrooms

  • Is there sufficient lighting in the rooms and in closets?
  • Do you have low pile carpet or rugs secured to avoid slipping or tripping?
  • Are the curtains or shades easy to reach, open and close?
  • Do you have a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector installed in each room?
  • Are your washer and dryer on the same floor as your bedroom? Again, not always possible, but recommended.

 

Other General Considerations

  • Do you have a working security system and emergency call system?
  • Do you have easy-to-operate thermostats with dials that are easy to read?
  • Is there ample light throughout your home?
  • Are all electrical outlets up to code?
  • Is all plumbing in good working order?

It may seem like a daunting task to make all of the upgrades and changes to your home that will allow you to stay put, but you don’t need to do everything at once. Look online for a comprehensive list of all the things home designers and architects typically recommend for new construction for older adults. Take away what applies to your home and situation, then plan to implement the changes over time.

The most important factors are your safety and security. Improved lighting, easier access to cabinets, non-slip flooring, and special attention to potential hazards in the bathroom are the best way to get started on your plan for aging in place.