How to Modify a Home to Help Irish Seniors Age in Place
The bottom line:
- More seniors are ageing in place than ever before, and some simple changes can be made to their homes to help them do so safely.
- From preventing risks to helping them better manoeuvre their environments, seniors need to pre-empt their changing needs as they age to be able to live independently for longer.
More seniors are opting to age in place than ever before. It’s no surprise that a generation that has enjoyed a more active, vibrant lifestyle than previous generations wants to maintain their independence for as long as possible. With rising costs of healthcare and limited space in nursing homes and independent living communities, it’s only natural that these seniors are striving to stay in their own homes. However, having spent decades raising families in homes they have moulded to their wants and needs, these same seniors are finding that with age comes mobility challenges and that their homes no longer provide the levels of comfort they once did.
But how can they ensure the cherished memories of a lifetime spent in their homes live on whilst also keeping themselves safe from slips and falls?
The answer is home adaptations – those made pre-emptively to avoid risks before they become problems. Not sure where to start? We’ll walk you through the main ones to consider to ensure older adults can live both comfortably and safely as they maintain their independence.
Ensuring safety in the home
We can all agree that the key to ageing in place is ensuring everyone is safe in their surroundings. However, if it’s something you’ve never thought about before, it may not be as easy as it seems to spot potential risks. Though risks arise depending on the mobility of individuals, several features of a “normal” home are actually hazardous when you look at them through a different lens, and making minor tweaks throughout a home can make all the difference to a senior’s safety.
Here are some examples:
A big part of independence is being able to come and go as you please, whether it’s to the door to receive deliveries or all the way to the shops to stock up. Either way, a front entrance needs to be hazard-free to ensure easy access to seniors (and everyone else, for that matter).
- Replace steps with a ramp to prevent trips.
- Replace flooring to ensure grip and reduce the chances of slipping (this can also be achieved with non-slip tape).
- Install a grab-bar outside to increase stability.
Around the house
As a senior moves around their house, they risk tripping on anything that may be in their way, something that is entirely avoidable with a few simple changes:
- Move furniture to create clear walking paths
- Keep objects off the floor and attach wires and cords to the wall
- Remove or fasten down rugs or floor runners
- Replace ceramic floors with hardwood or vinyl to reduce slips
- Install support polls like Gripo to aid getting out of your favourite chair
- Repair or replace loose handrails
- Ensure there is good lighting throughout the house, especially on stairways
In the Kitchen
The kitchen is full of potential hazards, but it’s also one of the most important rooms in a house. How can it be kept safer for seniors?
- Replace old stoves with induction cooktops to help prevent burns
- Lower shelves and place essentials in lower cupboards to avoid the need for step stools
- Switch to a table-top oven and/or fridge to avoid the need to bend over.
- Add a perching stool next to the workstation to avoid the need for long periods being stood up.
In the Bathroom
The bathroom is potentially the most hazardous room in the house. Wet surfaces become slippery very quickly, and seniors may find they have lost the mobility they need to get in and out of a tub:
- Install grab bars for toilets and baths
- Install a walk-in bath and/or tub seat
- Install a zero-threshold shower
- Use non-slip mats
In addition to staying safe, comfort and manoeuvrability are also crucial to keeping seniors in their own homes for longer. Ensuring they can carry out their daily living tasks safely and easily may require slightly different alterations to be made. These may include:
- Replacing doorknobs with lever door handles
- Ensuring all light switches are rocker switches
- Lowering sinks and countertops, as necessary
- Widening doorways and hallways to accommodate wheelchairs
There’s a whole world of new technology out there that could greatly benefit seniors ageing in place, from home meal delivery services, assistive seating and chair lifts to medical alert systems and smart home devices. By implementing home modifications that support ageing in place, today’s seniors can maintain their independence, and may save a substantial amount of money on senior living in the long run.
Where to start on a home modification?
When evaluating your home to make it safer there are many areas and things to consider. The task can be daunting and it can be difficult to prioritise the areas of your home, both indoors and out, to detect where the issues lie.
We have created a home adaptation guide and checklist which you can use to get you started. We also recommend that you seek the opinion of a home adaptation specialist or occupational therapist if you feel that your home will require a broader works such as bathroom adaptations, doors widening or kitchen tops to be lowered.