The youngest of the Baby Boomer generation has all turned 50, most of whom remain active and health conscious. Still, as you age, it often means new aches and pains, less flexibility, poorer balance, decreased vision and many other maladies that can make it difficult to navigate your home.
Not many in the aging population like to think about moving to a retirement community or an assisted living facility. By making the right preparations now, you may be able to avoid those scenarios and live in your own home much longer.
Overall, changes to your home need to encompass wide halls and doorways, plus other safety concerns while still having a comfortable home with stylish décor. Nobody wants to reside in replicated hospital rooms.
If you live in your forever home, consider the following changes, including the adoption of “smart” gadgets, to help you age in place better:
1. Outfit the Bathroom
A large shower with bench seating, a handheld shower sprayer and grab bars make showering easier. In case a wheelchair transfer is required, the toilet should be chair-height, have enough room around it to place a wheelchair and have a grab bar against the wall. Another option, a wall-mounted sink accommodates a wheelchair or other mobility device more easily than a traditional sink flush with the counter.
2. Safeguard the Bedroom
Hopefully the master bedroom is on the first floor or you can convert a room there as your main bedroom. If you don’t already have one, install a smoke detector in the bedroom and pathway lights leading to the bathroom. You’ll also want to have lots of room around at least three sides of the bed.
3. Assemble a Convenient Kitchen
If you’re in the market for new appliances, think of these as more wheelchair-friendly: refrigerators with double doors, a cooktop attached to the counter and an oven placed into the wall. A countertop sporting a contrasting color around the edges keeps those with fainter vision from running into sharp corners. Outlets along the backsplash in your kitchen make it more convenient to plug in appliances.
4. Switch the Flooring
Eliminate throw rugs, which often cause slip and fall accidents. Instead of tile, opt for vinyl, linoleum, wood or cork flooring, all of which are easier to stand on if you develop lower back or hip pain. Carpet can work as long as it’s low pile and not loose any place, but it’s not the best for wheelchairs.
5. Light Up the House
Add bright lights and lots of them. Some rooms in older homes may only have a single light source, so consider adding recessed lights.
Install task lighting in work areas and closets. Most importantly you’ll need to find the light switches easily so you can turn on lights before entering a room. Lighted switch plates help when it’s dark.
6. Purchase a Generator
In case of power outages, medical equipment will still have power.
7. Ramp it Up
Even just four steps leading from the outside to the front door can be daunting to someone in a wheelchair, with a walker, on crutches or who is unsteady on their feet. A ramp makes a world of difference.
8. Install Smart Lights
These can be turned off and on with a smartphone. Almost anything can be connected to and controlled by a smartphone including fans, air conditioners and thermostats.
9. Obtain a Wireless Monitoring Kit
It comes with sensors that can be placed anywhere – pill boxes, refrigerator doors, peanut butter jars, etc. – that let a loved one know you’re okay because the item with the sensor was moved that day. This is the modern-day equivalent of the old Life Alert System.
10. Replace Your Door Lock
Have a locksmith swap your current lock for one you can open with a touch of your finger instead of fumbling with a key.
11. Grow Indoor Plants in a Smart Pot
It dispenses water and nutrients for a month and you don’t need to lift a finger.
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