I shared this statistic last month, but it’s worth revisiting: An AARP survey indicates 87 percent of baby boomers, age 65 or older, want to continue living in their current homes.
So the question is: How do we make this happen? By making aging accommodations before they are needed.
Continuing with the theme of last month’s column, let’s explore modifications that will make your home’s interior suitable for aging in place. The weather is cooling and the days are shorter; it’s a good time to work inside.
To get started, we need to get beyond our denial that we are aging. It’s easy to put off “aging-friendly” home alterations, if we think the need is years down the road.
The reality: Aging is progressive. Physical weakening and frailty creep up on us. Our sense of balance decreases over time, happening so subtly, we are unaware. We never expect a stumble or a fall. We certainly don’t want injuries.
Don’t let a setback be your wakeup call. Be proactive!
Don’t be troubled by teasing from friends after you make age-accommodating alterations to your home. Set aside your anxieties about appearance and décor. The bottom-line is you want to be safe and sound.
The bathroom is the number one location where falls happen. This is where more obvious modifications will be made. I recommend grab bars in the shower and tub.
If you feel lightheaded, you’ll be thankful grab bars are in place. Ditto if you slip or catch your foot getting out of the tub.
If décor is critical, stylish grab bars are available at high-end plumbing showrooms. If bars need to be installed over tile or stone, hire a contractor or handyman. Grab bars must be firmly attached; preferably to a wall stud. Here’s a web page with installation details: http://www.adabathroom.com/grab_bar.html
Some changes may require a plumber. A hand-held shower, easy-to-use faucets and a toilet with a seat 24 inches from the floor are recommended for aging in place. If you have poor balance or are recovering from an injury or surgery, use a shower chair.
Here are things easy to do: Put a non-slip mat or non-slip strips inside the tub and on the shower floor; place a non-slip mat outside the tub and shower.
Here are other simple improvements: Remove clutter from the floor; then keep it that way.
This especially true for the bedroom where we tend to get in and out of bed with minimal lighting. Do not leave shoes on the floor and do not allow blankets and sheets to hang onto the floor. Illuminate the path to bathroom with nightlights. While sleeping, keep your phone and a flashlight within reach.
Stairs, carpets and flooring
If you’re still employed, this is a great time to take on expenses that require professionals. Don’t wait until you’re living on a fixed income.
Stairs need to be well-lit with switches easily accessible. If needed, move switches to easy-to-reach locations. Increase the wattage of lightbulbs or add light fixtures that provide evenly diffused light.
Experts have mixed opinions on surfaces used for interior stairs. A low pile carpet has more grip than wood or tile but, on the other hand, carpets can be slippery and catch the soles of shoes. Examine what you have and determine the risk. Install rubber treads on hard-surfaced stairs.
Not lifting lift our feet, as high as we once did, is an aging reality. Give your collection of throw rugs to your kids before they become tripping hazards. When replacing rugs, use low pile carpeting.
When replacing kitchen floors, choose a non-skid material. When upgrading kitchen cabinets, install pullouts and, in corners, rotating trays. When replacing furniture, select pieces with arms; it’s easier to push yourself into a standing position.
These worthwhile upgrades will keep you busy throughout the fall and winter months and beyond.
Most of us want to age at home. If we work at it now, when we get old, we’ll enjoy the fruits of our labor.
Wishing you a healthy, happy and safe growing old. Remember: we’re all in this together.
MARLA BECK is the founder and president of Andelcare Inc., which provides in-home eldercare. Submit questions by calling (206) 838-1844 or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. To comment on this column, write to MPTimes@nwlink.com.