Life is sweet at home

How to Make Home More Age Friendly

The Accessible Home: Designing for All Ages and Abilities” by Deborah Pierce

The Accessible Home: Designing for All Ages and Abilities” by Deborah Pierce

After working to help thousands of people age-in-place over the past 14 years, I have always been excited about ways we could make our homes safer and more livable. And, now that I am well into my 50s, I appreciate the importance of making my own home as “Age Friendly” as possible.

So, I was fascinated by a recent article in the Wall Street Journal by Sally Abrams titled; “Hope to Stay in Your Home? Try Making It More ‘Age Friendly.’” She looked at how three couples faced the inevitable and planned their elder years dream homes.

For example, Sally and Brian Rodgers, ages 67 and 68, remodeled their small master bedroom bathroom with a treacherous bathtub and narrow 24-inch door into a model aging-in-place bath. The door was expanded by 10-inces, the new vanity raised to make it easier on the back, they got rid of the tub and installed lever faucets. They also installed a curbless walk-in shower with fold-up chair and lots of grab bars.

Example of the elevated toilet, the grab bar, and ample maneuvering space. http://www.ageinplace.org

Example of the elevated toilet, the grab bar, and ample maneuvering space. http://www.ageinplace.org

Making Your Home Senior Friendly

The National Aging in Place Council (NAPC) suggests you take a hard look at all the major living areas in your home including entry ways, bedrooms/bathrooms and kitchens. It’s also important to think about proper lighting, a critical factor in preventing accidents.

Our friend and colleague Natalie Anderson , OTR/L, CAPS and owner of OTPlus explained this theory in easy-to-understand terms. First of all, she observed that nobody thinks they will trip and fall in their own home. But what they don’t realize is that they haven’t reevaluated where they put stuff when they originally moved in 30 to 40 years earlier.

For example, the frying pan they use every morning to cook their egg may still be buried deep underneath a cabinet or high overhead. Now, decades later they are much older and their lifestyle and physical abilities have changed.

Example of enhanced storage space. http://www.ageinplace.org

Example of enhanced storage space. http://www.ageinplace.org

“If people use something every day they need to place it somewhere that can be easily reached between eye level and waist height,” said Natalie. “When people reach higher or lower than that they can fall.”

In order to reevaluate the entire house, Natalie suggested people walk through their homes with different eyes. “Look at your home as if your 98-year-old aunt is coming to visit for a week,” said Natalie. “Then, look around to see what obstacles are in the pathways, where are the sharp corners and throw rugs to slip on.”

Of course, added Natalie, the most important thing to do to prevent falls isn’t just about fall proofing your home, “It’s about fall proofing yourself by walking daily and keeping moving.”

Tips for fall proofing baths & bedrooms

To increase safety and accessibility in your master bedroom and bathroom, consider making some home modifications:

 Bathroom

  • Build a roll-in shower with multiple shower heads (height adjustable handheld shower head and fixed)
  • Lower the bathroom sink and making sure there’s proper knee clearance
  • Install an elevated toilet
  • Install grab bars

 Kitchens

Here are a few ideas to make your kitchen more “user-friendly:”

  • Ensure there’s ample maneuvering space
  • Vary the height of countertops
  • Install a sink with knee clearance
  • Install a raised dishwasher
  • Lower cooking surfaces
  • Mount a wall oven or microwave at reachable heights
  • Make sure there’s an abundance of storage space within reach
  • Provide a desk/work area with knee clearance

Other Resources:

AARP HomeFit Guide – aarp.org

National Aging in Place Council – ageinplace.org

Certified Aging-in-Place specialists: nahb.org/

How do you make your home safer for aging-in-place?