Aging at home? Think safety

By Carol Marak - Aging Matters

Most of us want to age-in-place. But can we? Affordable, accessible and well-located housing affects the quality of life for all ages, but it’s most significant for older adults. A report released by The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University and AARP claims three key points are the cornerstone to comfort and security.

Housing is the single largest item in most budgets and its costs and expenses directly influence financial security. The home’s location and accessibility are essential to health and safety, to stores, services, and transportation. Without the three components, older adults may experience inactive, non-productive, and isolated lives. If an individual lives with a disability or chronic disease, they will suffer since local support and services could be difficult to find and access.

Whether one chooses to remain independent and to grow older at home is up to the individual and their loved ones to know if the home will allow them to age-in-place. Start early when assessing your preferences, the readiness of the home, and the community it’s located.

I’ve listed suggestions and tips that will make the home safer. Consider these and adapt accordingly.

– Numerous safety and fall hazards exist in everyone’s homes. What needs fixing is determined not so much by specific hazards, but by observing a person’s ability to maneuver (walk and transfer) safely in the home. For example, extra handrail support becomes a priority for balance.

– Hire help for difficult tasks. Many older adults have fallen off ladders or roofs doing home maintenance. It might be worth hiring someone instead. Keep the home clean by hiring a housekeeper.

– Home technology helps and keeps people living with chronic illness to have healthcare in the home. While most people will think about physical space modifications, the most underutilized trend is the simple use of technology.

– Adopt wearable or simple sensors which connect the older consumer with family, emergency support services, and detect falls, allowing family or caregivers to identify issues before they escalate and exacerbate.

– Think of the future every time you make a change to a room. Every renovation should consider future need or ability to retrofit. Select lever handle faucet and add lighting options in dark hallways and bathrooms. Are studs in place for grab bars?

– Use the assistive devices that are available to you—canes, walkers, hearing aids, etc. Look critically at how you use your space and what changes would make it easier for you to maneuver in your house. Get an evaluation from a physical therapist.

Think ahead. When considering retirement, some gravitate toward a place in the countryside, which feels like a good idea when active and able. However, there are real advantages to having neighbors, friends, and family close by.

By Carol Marak

Aging Matters

Carol Marak is an aging advocate, She earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.

Carol Marak is an aging advocate, She earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.