Most older adults want to continue living in their homes and communities as they age. However, not all homes are equipped to help your loved ones age in place safely and comfortably. For some families, an independent living or assisted living community gives them the peace of mind that their loved ones can continue living the lifestyle they prefer – without worrying about home maintenance or other activities of daily living. But those options don’t work for everyone. Fortunately, there are many modifications you can make to improve the safety and functionality of a home to help your loved ones age in place more comfortably.
Everyone has different homes and different care needs. But the following list of modification ideas should serve as a good starting point and get you thinking about different ways you can make a home more elder-friendly. We’d also recommend checking out the AARP’s Home FitGuide for even more ideas.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in four Americans age 65 and older reports falling each year. You can improve traction and help prevent falls by affixing non-slip tape to uncarpeted stairs and placing non-slip mats inside and outside the bathtub – as these are the areas where falls are most likely to occur.
Elevate the toilet
The average toilet seat is only about 15 inches from the floor. You can imagine how inconvenient it must be for someone who has difficulty moving between sitting and standing to use something that’s lower than most chairs. If you don’t want to replace an existing toilet with a taller one, there are toilet seat risers available that cost less and don’t require renovation work. A bidet that can clean and dry the user is another useful modification that’s easy to install on most toilets for a relatively low cost.
Install grab bars
Grab bars are a common home modification that can help a person keep their balance, avoid falling, or move more easily from sitting to standing. Spots like the bathroom, hallway, and by the bed are all effective places to have grab bars. Similarly, if your home has stairs, ensure that the railings are in good condition and wobble-free.
Check for lighting improvements
Extra lighting makes a home easier to navigate and greatly reduces the risk of tripping. Walk through your home and look for areas where more brightness is needed. In most cases, you won’t need entirely new fixtures – just better bulbs, stick-on lights, or motion sensors. Things like adhesive light strips along stairs and under cabinets can make a big difference in safety and convenience. We’d also recommend motion activated night lights for bathrooms and/or hallways to make nighttime trips to the toilet easier.
Keep an eye out for items any items that could hamper mobility or create a tripping hazard. There should be clear pathways and plenty of space to walk in without bumping into anything, especially if your loved one uses a cane, walker, or wheelchair in the home. The more free space, the better. Some common things to move or throw away include:
- Pet food and water bowls
- High-pile/shaggy carpets
- Unsecured throw rugs
- Coffee tables, ottomans, statues, and other furniture low to the ground
It’s also worth noting that you may not have to do these modifications on your own. If your loved one qualifies for PACE (which has a lot to offer those who wish to live at home instead of an assisted living center), the installation of some types of home safety modifications are included within the program.