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For more independent seniors, aging in place can be a wonderful way to stay at your home and near friends or family. In order to make your existing home safer, there are a number of accessibility modifications you or a contractor can install. Here are some ways to safely age in place.

Making Your Home Safer

For seniors to stay independent, they must have a safe environment to live in. Safe is a relative term that must factor in a person’s individual needs. “Understanding your health, medical conditions, and any complications that may arise is the first step to staying in your own home,” explains Home Advisor. Knowing your abilities helps you understand which modifications are most important, as well as whether you are able to install them yourself. The most common senior injuries are falls and burns. Around 3 million seniors every year end up in the hospital after a fall. As you age, your joints lose their flexibility, and it becomes harder for you to balance.  This means that it also becomes harder to catch yourself if you trip.

To start to keep yourself safe, remove slippery floor rugs in favour of non-slip mats, clear away clutter, and if necessary, install ramps or lift devices for stairs. I’ve discovered that what could once be a minor bump can immediately become a purple bruise. The same stick-on bumper pads that parents use to keep babies safe are handy for seniors too, as they can be placed on sharp corners and low-down bumping hazards. Burns are particularly dangerous because burn treatments tend to be less effective with older people. Fire danger is generally linked to memory and vision issues, so if you have experienced those, it is recommended to simplify your kitchen by removing dangerous burners.

Modifications You May Be Able to Do Yourself

If you are still relatively active, you may be able to install certain home modifications yourself. In addition to making your home safer, this DIY approach may also provide you with mental stimulation and mild physical exercise. It can be difficult to know what home accessibility modifications to tackle first. The best way is to begin by considering your own abilities. I also found it helpful to bring over some of my senior friends to help me point out areas that could be a hazard now or in the future.

If your balance is an issue, causing you to be at risk for a fall, you can start by removing floor rugs and placing grippy non-slip mats in places you know are more slippery, like around corners and in the shower. Next, consider installing grab bars in particularly slippery areas. They can be extremely useful in narrow or uneven corridors, as well as in winding passageways. Seniors with arthritis in their hands and wrists may find it difficult to twist traditionally shaped door handles. You can use a screwdriver to swap rounded handles in favour of lever-style handles quickly. If you enjoy woodworking but have difficulty climbing up the steps to get into your house, why not try your hand at building a ramp? Basic plans are available online, and many local groups offer assistance. Keep in mind that modifications can be for a hobby or activity too. I absolutely love gardening, but kneeling on the ground made my knees ache. I had a family friend who came by to help me raise my garden beds, as well as install a vertical garden on my patio.

Know When to Hire a Contractor

For more complicated projects, you may wish to hire a contractor. I’m very independent, so it’s hard for me to ask for and accept help. I had to keep reminding myself that aging in place is all about maintaining my independence for as long as possible. Contractors can help with raising your toilet, creating a curbless walk-in shower, and even widening your doorways to make it easier to navigate your house. When hiring a contractor, get at least three bids and be aware of unusually low or high prices. Make sure they are licensed in your area. It may be useful to find a contractor who is a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS). Certified Aging-in Place Specialist have taken classes that educate and train them to understand and adapt to the needs of seniors who have chosen to age in place. Experienced CAPS-certified contractors will often know the best products and modifications to suit your needs.

Aging in place is a way to help seniors maintain their independence while living in a safe environment. The benefits go beyond convenience — comfort and belonging play a great role in mental health, plus it may be less expensive in the long run. That makes it worth it to take the time to install accessibility modifications, ensuring that you can happily and safely age in place.

Written By Hazel Bridges

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