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Many standard home-features can become potential hazards or barriers to aging adults. Individuals who wish to remain in their home as opposed to senior communities or assisted living facilities, must consider appropriate home upgrades if they wish to successfully age in place. An occupation therapist (OT) teaches individuals how to perform daily activities and tasks in a way that works with their specific disability, injury, or illness. An OT’s purpose is to help individuals live the fullest life their body is capable of living. An OT can assess your living space, and pinpoint specific changes that will make it possible to age at home with the least amount of needed assistance. An OT will create a renovation plan that considers your current abilities and struggles, and also considers the future needs. The most affordable time to make age-friendly upgrades is during a home remodel/renovation, or while building a new home. If you are considering or in the process of updating your home, here are a few specific examples to make it age-friendly:
Doorways: One of the first things I noticed when I worked in an assisted living facility was the width of the doors. They are visibly wider than a standard home doorway because they need to account for wheelchairs, walkers, and other devices. A home remodel is the perfect time to widen doorways and install appropriate doors.
Wall outlets: Typically they are placed about 18 inches above the floor, sometimes lower. For an older adult, bending down to plug something in may become a difficult task. Installing electrical outlets at waist or table height eliminates the need to bend down.
Walk-in showers where the flooring in the rest of the bathroom continues into the shower without any dividers are common in fancy resorts, but they are also very practical for home use. Stepping over the side of a typical bathtub/shower or a shower stall may become hazardous and difficult for many older adults. Walk-in showers eliminate any stepping over.
Bedrooms: In multi-level homes, a first floor master bedroom is easiest to access. A simply furnished room with plenty of lighting and open walkways is the safest. A furnished guest room is also important to accommodate family visitors or a caregiver, should the need arise.
Outdoors: Replace plastic chairs and loungers with sturdier options that are supportive and easy to sit and stand from. Raised garden boxes or tabletop garden boxes bring the earth closer to an aging adult. Add favorite flowers, plants, and/or herbs in a yard or outdoor space for safe outdoor entertainment. Secured rugs and runners create safe walkways, and textured walkways such as pavers that fit together without gaps or ridges, or stamped concrete walkways are also good options.
These are just a few suggestions to illustrate how specific changes can make your home significantly more accessible and age-friendly. The staff at Be Active Be Well is here to help refer you to an occupational therapist if you or a loved one needs help planning an age-friendly home upgrade.
DISCLAIMER: This article contains information that is intended to help the readers be better informed regarding exercise and health care. It is presented as general advice on health care. Always consult your doctor for your individual needs. Before beginning any new exercise program it is recommended that you seek medical advice from your personal physician. This article is not intended to be a substitute for the medical advice of a licensed physician. The reader should consult with their doctor in any matters relating to his/her health.