Accepting the fact that you’re getting older and will need to start making some changes can be emotionally trying. What most of us want more than anything is to live independently for as long as possible, which leads many seniors to choose to age in place. If this is how you envision spending your senior years, it’s important to explore your options to make sure you can age in place safely and without sacrificing your emotional well-being.
Making Your Home More Accessible
Before deciding to stay in your current home, you should start by going through your home and doing a thorough safety check. It’s easy to overlook things in the space where you’re used to living day and in and day out, so ask an adult child or friend to help you. Write down everything you think of, and consult this checklist from the National Council on Aging so nothing is missed. Even if you are in good health now, you should also consider how you would get around at home if you needed a walker or had loss of vision or hearing later in life.
As you’re doing the assessment, keep in mind that the biggest safety concern as you age is falling. Every year, over one third of seniors over the age of 65 experience a falling incident. Therefore, fall prevention is an important measure for seniors who want to age in place. Once you’ve addressed the need to create a safer home, think about what modifications need to be made. The following suggestions are some of the easiest accessibility modifications that help eliminate the most potential for falling injury:
- Slip-resistant flooring – Choosing the right flooring can make a big difference in reducing the risk of falling. There are pros and cons to all types of flooring; carpet is soft and slip-resistant, but it can be hard to clean, while vinyl and linoleum are great slip-resistant surfaces that are easy to clean, but they’re less cushiony. However, the main types of flooring you should avoid, according to The Spruce, are natural stone, tile, and area rugs. Stone and tile can be slippery when wet and are very hard, potentially causing more harm if you do ever fall.
- Bathroom safety – You want your bathroom to be easily accessible and to have safety features to prevent falls around water. Installing a curbless walk-in shower is the best way to accommodate a variety of needs. Even if you don’t do a full-scale bathroom remodel, you can install grab bars and add anti-slip mats.
- Safe entryway – Steps are a major tripping hazard, so it’s a good idea to install a ramp with handrails and lighting. A step-free entry is not only easier and safer, it’s ideal for use with a walker or wheelchair too.
Knowing All Your Options
Aside from safety and accessibility, consider everything else that goes along with staying in your house before deciding to age in place. Of course, you need to be safe, but your emotional health is just as important. While home will always feel like home, think about whether you have social support and easy access to activities you like to do, places to shop, and the opportunity to get outdoors and exercise. If your home isn’t in a location that meets these needs, you may be happier moving to a new home.
You may also decide that making modifications isn’t an option and that you would be safer moving to a home that is already accessible. Many newer homes feature universal design and will already have what you need. Create a checklist of what you’re looking for to use as a guide during your home search. You can also use online filters to search for accessible homes for sale in your area.
Deciding to move may feel like you’re giving up home, but moving to a new place that’s more accessible now gives you the chance to make it yours. Home is where the heart is, after all, and even a new home will have all the comforts you know and love. Either way, exploring all your options is the best way to make the choice that’s right for you.
By: Mike Longsdon