I work closely with the elders in our community, primarily helping our elders to live at home safely for as long as possible. Amazingly, many of the elders in Gilpin County (with the fastest aging population in the state of Colorado) live alone – the solitary, mountain lifestyle that includes chopping wood for heat, and carrying water for washing and cooking. It’s not easy – even for the young and able-bodied – to thrive at this altitude, with the isolation and exposure to the elements.
That’s why I was intrigued, and grateful, to receive an unsolicited correspondence from Kent Elliot, who is writing a book called “Aging in Place: One Project at a Time“. (Mind you, The Holistic Homestead gets lots of unsolicited requests from potential contributors, and I am wary of most of them. It took several months for me to approve Kent’s request, after thoroughly vetting his website and credentials.)
I appreciate his take on DIY home improvements that don’t require professional help, and his perspective on things you can do now if you are in your sixties, and planning to live the rest of your life in your home.
Enjoy this excerpt from Kent’s book, and reach out to an elder in your community today! Be a friend, a companion, bring a meal, a pet, a song, a smile, a hug.
Aging in Place: How Seniors Can Ensure Safety with Easy Home Modifications
For many seniors, the ability to live at home for as long as possible means freedom, and it’s an important part of the post-retirement years to be able to continue to do so. There are many considerations to make beforehand. However, staying safe and healthy is imperative. Not only is it a good idea to think about your health needs at present, it’s also essential to look ahead and figure out what your needs might be five or 10 years from now. Will you still be as mobile?
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to make your home a safe place to live during your post-retirement years. From flooring to lighting, think about things that will prevent falls and make everyday life easier. There are many ways you can get started that won’t break the bank, but it’s a good idea to work out a budget beforehand and do some research in order to avoid any surprises. You can look online for ideas on DIY home modification projects that can be completed in a weekend.
Keep reading for some great tips on how to age in place safely with the right changes.
Consider fall prevention
Fall prevention is one of the most important aspects of a home modification, as falls are the greatest cause of injury to seniors at home. A few easy ways to help prevent falls from happening include removing throw rugs (which can be trip hazards), installing non-slip rubber-backed mats in the bathrooms, and adding lighting to dim areas, such as stairwells. It’s also a good idea to wear sturdy shoes around the house, especially if you have a condition such as diabetes that makes mobility a little more difficult.
Even the cleanest of homes can have clutter, but it’s important to clear out as much as possible when you’re thinking of aging in place. This is because it will prevent falls, boost your mental health, and help you stay organized, which is great for your memory. Go through the most-used areas in your home—your living room and kitchen are great places to start—and get things neat and tidy. Find storage options that work for your needs to get things up off the floor and countertops.
Stairs can be increasingly difficult for many seniors; in fact, many seniors find it easier to move into a one-story home once they start having trouble with mobility. However, if that isn’t an option for you, there are easier ways to accommodate your needs. Adding ramps, for example, will help you navigate the space much more easily.
Adding rails in the bedroom and bathrooms can help you stay independent and mobile,
especially if you have trouble getting up from a sitting position. Place one on either side of the bed, one beside the toilet, and one in the shower (along with a shower seat) to help you prevent slips and falls. It’s also a good idea to make sure any stair railings are sturdy and firmly attached to the wall.
Aging in place can be a major undertaking for many seniors, so it’s important to start with a good plan that will allow you to stay on-budget in order to avoid stress and to keep your finances in order. Talk to your spouse or partner about the best ways to make your home safe and accessible for your needs, both now and in the future. Map out a plan for each room and write down a list of materials so you can stay organized.