“Aging in place” is a simple concept: living out your later years in your home without any assistance, but also without sacrificing any quality of life. Some recognizable features of aging in place include living in a safe neighborhood, enjoying high-caliber healthcare, and enjoying affordable housing and transportation options. Perhaps the first way to make sure that you’ll be able to age in place, however, is to make your home safe and visitable. Here’s some advice on how to tackle home improvement with accessibility modifications, how to find a great contractor, and how to stencil out the benefits of aging in place while remaining independent and safe.
Finding a Great Contractor
Pinning down a great contractor is as elusive and maddening for older people as it is for the rest of us. Before you dive into it, make sure you have a plan in mind for what you want. Then, invite over at least three contractors and tell them about it. Ask them to quote you, pay attention to what their timetable is, and see how well you vibe with this person. Remember, this contractor will probably be hammering down walls and putting up beams at 7 AM as a daily routine for weeks or possibly even months, so make sure that this is someone you can have a strong working relationship with, and always check his or her references.
Home Accessibility Modifications
If you’d rather not refurbish your entire home so that it’s elder-friendly, consider moving into a house that’s already been specifically designed for older adults over the age of 65. Either way, make sure that the home environment has the right features for you. Go room by room and determine whether each is safe. Check the kitchen to see whether the cabinets are easy to open. Are the countertops are placed at a reasonable level? Are rugs or mats taped down to prevent slips? Elsewhere in the house, make sure the bathroom has grab bars for the shower, and the front door and the bathroom tubs have no-step entries. Be wary of the garage as well. People tend to pile junk in the garage, making it the house’s de facto danger zone. Do your best to clear it all away.
Decluttering is vital for all of us, but perhaps especially so for seniors, who are prone to tripping and seriously injuring themselves. Falls are far more serious for the elderly than for other demographics. According to statistics, falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among the elderly. That’s why the older you get, the more vital it is to your health to throw out junk, widen doorways, and live in rooms that are open, clean and light-filled.
If you live in an area that’s prone to storms, then it may be a good idea to install a generator. This way, you won’t have to worry about finding your way around in the dark if you suddenly lose power. Just remember to get multiple quotes and research different contractors to make sure you’re getting the best your money can buy.
Have you considered if you may need a wheelchair ramp? Think of this as a potential workaround for various accessibility issues if the house has stairs. Keep in mind that a wheelchair ramp may not necessarily be needed for the activities of daily living but it may be helpful for things like hauling groceries inside or if you ever need a walker or a cane to help you move. Senior living doesn’t automatically mean you will wind up in a wheelchair, but a ramp can make your home more accessible to continue to live independently. There are resources available to make this free or affordable to build one for your home.
The Benefits of Aging in Place
Staying in your home rather than opting for community or assisted living comes with an array of benefits. The benefits of aging in place include the familiarity of your surroundings and the independence of doing things on your own schedule. The comfort of living somewhere that you’ve made for yourself is also important for your overall well-being.
At the same time, it’s also okay to admit when you need to downsize. Especially if a larger home becomes too difficult to maintain. Perhaps the key to downsizing is to cut the clutter while keeping the memories. Throw a yard sale, donate what you don’t need. Give family mementos to any of a family member that may want them. Don’t feel like you have to part with anything that you can’t bear to see go. Rather think of this process as purging excess to stencil out the things you love. Then consider taking them to a condo or a smaller living space that’s easier to function in. Just make sure it’s within your budget and has all the elder-friendly amenities you may need.
If you’d prefer to age in place as opposed to living in a nursing home or other assisted care facility, then you’ll likely have to make some modifications for accessibility. Work out a plan to do this sooner rather than later. It's always good to be proactive about aging instead of reactive. Once your house is adapted for your needs, you’ll be able to comfortably and safely stay in your home and continue aging in place.
If you need more help navigating the ins and outs of senior housing choices, please check out our other articles.
Article written by guest blogger Claire Wentz