5 Ways to Make Your Space Safe from El Dorado Hills AdvisorApr 27, 2016 12:28PM ● By David Norby
Photo © Andres Rodriguez/fotolia.com.
Day-to-day living in our homes gets tougher as we age. Common amenities develop into inconveniences; for instance, kitchen cabinets become too high and the bathtub too low. Though many older adults move to a home specifically designed for senior living, it’s not necessarily by choice. “Ninety-percent of seniors would prefer to remain in their homes,” acknowledges Glenn Krakow, owner and senior resource advisor at Home Care Assistance in El Dorado Hills. “In addition to wanting the comforts of home, they are also close to friends, shopping, church and other familiar activities.” For those who want to age in place, here are five ways to “seniorize” the space, keeping in mind that safety is of the utmost importance.
1 / Free the home from clutter. Krakow emphasizes that the first things to consider are the least expensive. “Go room to room and eliminate objects that can cause tripping and slipping,” he says. “Minimize the presence of extension cords and anything on the floor that moves, like throw rugs.” In the kitchen, he advises cleaning out and reorganizing cabinets to have the most frequently used items accessible between waist and shoulder height. “This will avoid over-reaching, which can cause injuries, including falls.”
2 / Prepare floors for ease of movement. New, safer flooring is a seniorizing improvement that’s reasonably cost-efficient, according to Kent Eberle, president of Eberle Remodeling and a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS). He recommends removing carpet and installing smoother floors with good traction. “Creating continuous flooring in the main living areas and throughout high traffic areas of the home will allow for ease of movement now, as well as down the road when walkers or wheelchairs may become a reality,” he says. “Minimizing floor transitions (moldings) between rooms is also helpful.”
3 / Update furniture. Krakow sees many seniors still using bedroom furniture purchased 30-50 years ago. “Scandinavian and Asian designs were common at the time, and their beds are very low. Consider raising the bed or replacing it with a higher one, making it easier to get in and out. The same consideration should be made for chairs,” he urges.
4 / Be sure the home is well lit—inside and outside. Walkways and hallways should have good lighting with easily accessible on/off switches. Krakow points out that stairs should always be well lit, since depth perception is a common issue for seniors. In addition to lighting, all stairs should have handrails.
5 / Modify the master bathroom to include a “curbless” shower. “This is the number one way to ‘future-proof’ your home,” says Katherine Kawaguchi, ASID allied interior designer, CAPS-certified (through the National Association of Home Builders) and owner of Guchi Interior Design. “A curbless shower will ensure that today’s homeowners are as secure as possible,” she confirms. “I also add rated support bars—not only in the shower but in every area a traditional towel bar might be placed.” Kawaguchi and Eberle both emphasize that support (grip) bars, as well as other bathroom modifications, can be decorative as well as functional.