January begins a new year, and often begins with resolutions and high hopes. However, the shorter days, cold weather, and being cooped up inside can often leave people feeling less than enthusiastic about the month of January. Spending more time indoors might lead us to think about what changes we need to make in our homes and plan ahead to make our homes safer and more accessible. When I was a kid, people often spent a lot of time in January looking at seed catalogs and dreaming about what they would plant in their gardens when warmer weather arrived. Why not take a few minutes and think about the “seeds” of a safer, more comfortable home?
Safety Preventing falls and accidents is the number one goal of any home modification. Falls are the leading cause of seniors having to move out of their homes. The first things I look for are tripping hazards. Loose throw rugs, uneven transitions between rooms, trailing extension cords, and excessive clutter can all lead to a fall and a potentially serious injury. Grab bars in convenient locations throughout the house can improve confidence as well as safety. It is particularly important to have adequate grab bars in the bathroom where surfaces can be very slippery! Make sure you have adequate lighting and bright and contrasting colors throughout the home.
Access If you cannot get into the house and move freely through it, the safety features won’t do you much good. An accessible route into the house from outside is the first order of business. Depending on the topography of your lot and the layout of the house, this can sometimes be a challenge. If you have a garage, the easiest approach is often to build a ramp into the house from the garage. If your house is too high off the ground to make a ramp practical, there are several types of mechanical lifts that can be used. These can also be used inside to help climb stairs. Many older homes have the only bathrooms on the second floor, which can make life very difficult for someone who can no longer climb stairs. Wider doorways and hallways can make a huge difference as well for someone using a walker or a wheelchair.
Communications The ability to communicate with loved ones and have someone come to your aid when you need it are very important aspects of living independently. We offer a system called Simply Home which allows seniors to live independently in their homes when it would be impossible to safely remain home otherwise. It works by sending notifications to a loved one or caregiver when a preprogrammed event occurs. The event can be anything from not taking medication to leaving the stove on, to not getting out of bed in the morning. Each system is customized to the needs of the individual and gives reassurance to the senior and their loved ones alike.
These are just a few of the “seeds” that can grow into a life of living independently in your own home throughout the course of your life. For more ideas on aging in place, home modifications, and Universal Design, come see us at the Greater Roanoke Home and Garden Show at the Roanoke Civic Center on January 13-15. We will have a live demonstration of the Simply Home system as well as a lot more information about how you can make your house a home for a lifetime. If you would like more information on any of the ideas in this article or on any aspect of aging in place please give me a call at (540) 556-0650 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Solid Rock has written many articles for Housing Matters, including subject matter for Retirement, Enjoying the Outdoors and Aging In Place. Please visit our Housing Matters Index of articles here.