Aging in Place: Living Gracefully Where You Are
Bay Alarm Medical
August 30, 2019
It’s a great time to be alive. In 2019, we have many options as to where to live as we get older. In years past the only place you could look forward to as you aged was a nursing home. Now you have multiple alternatives: you can age in place where you are, you can live in a 50+ only neighborhood, or choose anything in between, from an assisted-living community to a memory care place if necessary. Your golden years are now full of possibility and choices when it comes to living space.
The retirees of the Baby Boomer generation are more and more choosing to grow older in their own home, and are transforming their living spaces to be safer and more accommodating. The 2019 Outlook and State of Interior Design report from the American Society of Interior Designers says that the aging population will reshape interior design over the next decade.
So what are some of the changes driven by aging in place? According to the ASID’s report, there are five aging-in-place remodeling projects that have grown the most from 2013 to 2017. They are added lighting, curbless or walk-in showers, shower chairs, grab bars, nonslip floors, and wider doorways.
1. Added Lighting
As we age, our eyesight tends to worsen. Living gracefully in our home is easier to achieve when it is brightly lit to avoid falling. Added lighting such as task lighting, fluorescent lighting, and even nightlights are a great addition to any home. Walkways and entry/exit areas need to be especially well lit to avoid accidents, so weatherproof sensor lights are a smart addition to the exterior of the home. Making sure lighting fixtures have two or more bulbs is another good idea; that way there is a backup light in case one bulb burns out. There are also switch plate covers with built-in LED nightlights that are easy to install and will illuminate hallways and dark spots throughout a house.
2. Curbless or Walk-In Showers
A bigger investment but a good idea for seniors as they age is to install a walk-in tub, curbless or walk-in shower in place of a bathtub that requires one to step over the ledge. Stepping into a bathtub can be hazardous at any age, especially for those who are unsteady on their feet, have issues with balance, or are wet and slippery. A walk-in shower helps with this issue.
3. Grab Bars
Again, another good idea for anyone to install and use are grab bars. These are bars or handles that are anchored into the wall that can help support you. Grab bars can be placed strategically in bathrooms or any other room where you might need some extra support as you walk, turn, step over, or move around your house.
4. Nonslip Floors
One of the most important changes you can make to your house if you want to age in place gracefully is to consider the type of flooring you currently have. Nonslip floors are a must for the elderly. There is a myriad of choices out there for beautiful and safe flooring of every type, but nonslip is best regardless of what materials you decide on. This helps prevent falls and accidents, and can also be lower maintenance to clean depending on the type of nonslip flooring you choose.
5. Wider Doorways
Doorways are being widened to accommodate wheelchair access. The optimal width for doors will be 36 inches wide. The doors also need at least 18 inches of maneuvering space to allow for wheelchair access as someone opens and closes the door. Easy to open door handles such as the lever style are also good upgrades for seniors.
In addition to these five home improvements, there is also a surge in technology-oriented design, including “smart home” features that focus on senior wellness, such as beds, windowpanes, toilets, and more. Automating home functions such as a programmable thermostat or using an Alexa device to turn on lights is also helpful for seniors. Even installing a camera-equipped doorbell is beneficial to help homeowners see who is at the door before they even get up. And adding a wearable medical alert system will support safety and independence.
Be sure to check our aging-in-place infographic for helpful “Life Hack” tips for seniors as they get older. Ultimately it is up to you to decide where you will best thrive as a senior. Making physical changes to your home will help you continue to live gracefully and enjoyably as you age.