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 that these factors 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 is essential to access health and safety services, stores and transportation. Without these available, older adults may experience inactive, nonproductive and isolated lives.
If you choose to remain independent and grow older at home, start early to assess your preferences, the readiness of the home and the community in which it’s located.
Below are suggestions and tips that will make the home safer. Consider them and adapt accordingly.
• Numerous safety and fall hazards exist in everyone’s home. 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 can help people living with chronic illness. While most people will think about physical space modifications, the most unsung trend is the simple use of technology.
• Adopt wearable or simple sensors. They connect the older consumer with family and emergency support services, and detect falls, allowing family or caregivers to identify problems before they escalate.
• 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 faucets and add lighting options in dark hallways and bathrooms. Are studs in place for grab bars?
• Use assistive devices, including 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 one is active and able. However, there are real advantages to having neighbors, friends and family close by.
Carol Marak is an aging advocate at Seniorcare.com. She earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from the UC Davis School of Gerontology.