In the comfort of home: Tips for aging safely in place – and not in a nursing home

Most of us want to age in place. But can we? Affordable, accessible and well-located housing affects 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 that these 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 - with access to health and safety, stores, services and transportation - is essential. Without these three components, older adults may experience inactive, nonproductive and isolated lives. For individuals with a disability or chronic disease, location and accessibility are even more crucial.

Start early when assessing your options, considering the readiness of the home and the community in which it’s located.

Make your home safe

Following are suggestions and tips that will make a home safer. Consider them and adapt accordingly.

• Fix hazards. 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 performing home-maintenance tasks; it might be worth hiring someone instead. Keep the home clean by hiring a housekeeper.

• Purchase an alert device. Wearable devices with sensors can detect falls and connect you with family and emergency support services, allowing family or caregivers to identify problems before they escalate.

• Renovate mindfully. Think of the future whenever you make a change to a room. Every renovation should consider future needs or the ability to retrofit. Select lever-handle faucets and add lighting options in dark hallways and bathrooms. Are studs in place for grab bars?

• Use assistive devices. Use a cane, walker, hearing aid, etc. Look critically at how you use your space and what changes would make it easier for you to maneuver around. Seek 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 one is active and able. However, there are real advantages to having neighbors, friends and family close by.

Carol Marak is an aging advocate, columnist and editor at She earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from the UC Davis School of Gerontology. To subscribe to her newsletter, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and write "sign me up" in the subject line. m

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