How to Ensure Safe, Independent Living for as Long as Possible

Aging in place is a hot topic these days. The Baby Boomer generation currently makes up about 21.8% of the U.S. population and by 2030 the entire generation will be 65 or older (aka… retirement age). As time has gone on, due to technology advancements and available amenities, aging in place has become more achievable, more so than any other generation before. Along with the very real stories of senior neglect in assisted living and nursing homes and the lack of affordability of those services…it’s no surprise this generation is putting their foot down to stay in their homes for as long as they can. 

Adjustments for the Current Home

As family members, friends, or professionals serving this generation how can we ensure they can continue to live safely and independently for as long as possible? One of the top risk factors for seniors is falling. There are many ways to mitigate falling within the home that will increase years of safe, independent living. The following is a list of items to consider when you or your loved one are ready to make steps towards aging in place. 

  • Install grab bars for toilets and tubs. For walk-in showers install a shower seat. If a bathroom renovation is in order, consider a built in shower bench. These are becoming more and more popular with younger generations and doesn’t necessarily scream “senior living” when you go to sell the home in the future 
  • Remove any unnecessary throw rugs and fasten down area rugs and runners to prevent slipping. Throw rugs should be of lower pile to ensure their isn’t a big step difference between flooring.  
  • Move furniture to create clear walking paths. For wheelchairs make sure you have 3-4′ wide pathways. If you know a wheelchair is in the future, doorframes can also be widened to 3′
  • Keep unnecessary objects off the floor and coil or secure cords to the wall to prevent tripping 
  • Move often used items to lower cabinet shelves, this helps to avoid stepping stools or trying to grab items too high that wind up falling and breaking or injuring someone. 
  • Replace doorknobs with lever door handles, which are easier to operate 
  • Elevating the washer and dryer or dishwasher can help with continued independence of household chores
  • Switching out gas or electric stovetops for induction cooktops can prevent burns.
  • If tile flooring has wide or deep grout lines (uneven flooring) consider switching to a wood or laminate flooring 
  • Focus on lighting. Seniors need 2-3 times the amount of light to see as well as younger people. More light helps to avoid tripping, and bonus, if its natural light, it will aid in a bit more vitamin D which helps with calcium absorption and improves psychological well being 

Downsizing

If the current residence has become too big to maintain, or if renovations needed are just too much, it might be a good idea to consider downsizing. Here are some features to consider when downsizing: 

  • Single Level Living – No sunken living rooms or 2 story homes
  • No Step Entry – avoid steps into the home simplifying ingress and egress to the home. 
  • Accessible Kitchens – Look for kitchens with drawers or pull out shelves (easy access storage) 
  • Walk in showers (no step) with a shower bench and handheld showerheads
  • Low Maintenance Finishes – go for non-porous countertop materials like quartz as they don’t have to be routinely sealed and are resistant to scratches and stains, LED Lights that will last for a LONG time and wont need to be replaced, etc.
  • Slip Resistance Flooring Material – Think tile with some texture…not smooth marble. Bathrooms should not become a slip n’ slide when wet 
  • Good Natural Lighting – A brighter home will help in avoiding trip hazards 
  • Smart home features – Security cameras can help monitor the coming and going of visitors, smoke/carbon monoxide detectors ensure safety when an emergency strikes, automated lights can help in avoiding falling, voice controlled devices like an Alexa Dot can be set up with medication reminders, and more.  
  • Low Maintenance Yard – a garden home or HOA that includes lawn maintenance in their HOA fees
  • Proximity to transportation (many cities have senior transportation services that can assist with continued independence after driving is no longer an option)
  • Close knit community – many Real Estate agents should be aware of neighborhoods that have an active community. For the well being of seniors, an active HOA that holds activities like coffee at the club house or meets for dinner throughout the year could aid in a more fulfilling, active retirement

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