What we need from our living space changes as our families age. While many families put great thought into adapting their homes for the evolving needs of children, we must also consider how we can cater to older adults in our lives. Whether you occupy a multi-generational household or are approaching senior citizen years yourself, think about the following affordable ways you can reconfigure your home.
It’s normal to lose mobility
You may not have to replace stairs with ramps just yet, but there are small steps you can take to reduce the need for physical strain. For example, make sure that commonly-used items can be easily accessible without having to bend low or reach high. This is particularly true in the kitchen. Position the microwave on the counter rather than a high cabinet, and don’t place cups and plates on hard-to-reach shelves.
While the occasional trip up-and-down the stairs may be inevitable, organize your household so senior family members can spend the majority of their day on one level.
Lighting should be bright and easily accessible
Bones and muscles aren’t the only body parts that weaken with age, as eyesight naturally fades over time. Don’t force older loved ones to strain in the dark by installing multiple light sources in each room and nightlights to illuminate hallways. Switches should be easily reached rather than requiring fumbling, and consider implementing motion-sensor lights.
Remove clutter or decor choices that can easily lead to falls
Did you know that 60% of elderly falls happen while inside the home? Lessen the likelihood of this occurring by removing clutter that can be easily tripped over, affixing loose electrical cords to walls, and making sure rugs are taped to the floor. The slickness of the shower or a wet bathroom floor can make senior citizens particularly vulnerable to falling, so install grab bars and buy an anti-slip shower mat.
There’s no way to 100% prevent falls, so try to place rugs throughout the house to help cushion the impact. You can also add corner bumpers and edge guards to tables so, if your loved one bumps themselves when falling, the injury won’t be nearly as bad.
Add written instructions next to unfamiliar devices
Let’s face it, some senior citizens may face a learning curve when it comes to the household computer, TV, security system, etc. Be patient with older family members while they learn, and provide step-by-step written instructions right next to the device.
Finally, try to make new environments feel like home
If you’re reading this article, it’s likely that your elderly family member only recently moved in with you (or vice versa). If it’s the former, remember that they are facing new environments and routines which may make them uncomfortable or nervous. For this reason, try to decorate their personal space with mementos of their previous home. This could include their favorite chair, framed photographs, their record player, or a cherished book collection. The same line of thinking also applies to household appliances. Yes, their toaster oven or television set may seem “ancient,” but they are comfortable using it and will help transition them into their new life.
Got additional ideas on how someone can affordably rearrange their home to accommodate seniors? Let us know in the comment section.