Independence and Identity:
Home Modifications for Aging in Place
by Claire Wentz
Aging in place is the preferred living scenario for 80 percent of American seniors, according to AARP. With the ideal living environment — a home that allows for sufficient mobility and accessibility — older adults can expect to live happily at home with minimal assistance.
Seniors derive significant emotional and physical benefits from having the independence that comes with living at home. Maintaining one’s own residence is essential to self-esteem and retaining a distinct identity, whereas existing in an assisted living facility is often seen as a negative life change in which senior individuals feel “warehoused” and disappear into anonymity. Aging at home makes it easier to keep up social support networks and allows you to come and go as you please, for as long as you’re able.
If your intention is to remain at home as long as possible, a few relatively simple home modifications can make the difference between independence and an unwanted and possibly traumatic change in environment.
Access can be a major problem for older adults, particularly if they use a mobility assistance device of some kind. Doorways need to be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers, in some cases as much as 40 inches across (32 inches is ADA standard), a modification that can be pricey if it involves relocating electrical outlets, plumbing and insulation. In many cases, accessibility at the front and back door is an obstacle that makes it impossible for many seniors to get in and out of their own homes. For that reason, access ramps are needed to provide ready access for seniors to easily move around.
Seniors must be able to use their kitchen and bathroom freely if they are to age in place. Modifications are often necessary in these frequently used rooms to make that possible. Aging seniors often have difficulty using appliances and accessing countertops, which may need to be lowered, along with the sink. Microwaves can be accessed more readily when placed on an independent stand rather than situated at the back of your counter space.
Mobility can be a significant concern for seniors in the bathroom, which is often too small for a wheelchair or walker. Modifications may be needed to allow a person to turn around, use the toilet, sink, and bathroom/shower unit with minimal difficulty. If you have a bathtub, it may be necessary to replace it with a walk-in shower that includes a seat. Rubber safety strips should be placed in the shower to prevent falls, a major cause of injury among seniors. Be sure to install grab rails in the shower and along the toilet. A transfer bench may be needed to help seniors move in and out of the tub or shower.
The benefits of aging in place can help senior Americans live longer and happier, which makes it well worth the cost of modifying a home so a senior relative can live as independently as possible. Sometimes, it’s necessary to seek out a home that’s within your budget and already accessible for seniors who have mobility restrictions, as some modifications may be too expensive. Some modifications can be taken on as DIY projects, but it’s best to leave anything that involves relocating electrical outlets or plumbing to the professionals.
Courtesy of Pexels.com.
Claire is interested in providing assistance and support to those caregivers who do not live near their loved ones. She hopes her writing will inform them, uplift them, and give them peace of mind when they need it.
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