Aging in place is a popular option for seniors who don’t have pressing health concerns. By staying in their own home instead of a nursing home or any other senior care facility, older adults get to enjoy the comforts of their own space and in the company of the people that they’re most familiar with.
However, there is one major downside to aging in place, which is the lack of built-in safety and security equipment that senior care facilities have. If you decide to remain in your home, you have to modify it to make it safer for yourself as you grow older.
Before we delve into how to upgrade your home’s safety and security for aging in place, let’s answer the question:
When should you update your home’s safety?
There is no clear answer to this question as not everyone has the capacity to make modifications to their home easily. Moreover, not all individuals grow to need these modifications at the same rate. You may find that small modifications, like a handlebar in the shower, may make your life easier even if you do not depend on it.
We recommend that seniors make aging-in-place modifications to their home before physical conditions start getting worse. For example, if you start having difficulty getting up from the toilet, take it as a sign to install a handlebar before your symptoms get worse. It’s not a sign of defeat (everyone will age someday, after all), but rather a very important safety precaution and a way to reduce unnecessary pain.
If you have the means, why not make updates as soon as you retire? Even if you feel fine today, you’re going to thank yourself when your modifications are already installed and ready when you need them in the future.
However, some home modifications can actually delay the onset of age-related deterioration and prevent accidents that can have dire consequences on your health. With that, we’re going to divide aging-in-place modifications to three categories:
Home modifications that you should install now
These are the modifications that are better to have sooner rather than later. Even if you don’t have any physically-limiting conditions, these can help increase the safety of your home nonetheless:
- Better illumination
Whether your eyesight is poor or not, having good illumination inside the house is a great help. Install better lights in high-traffic areas, especially those that are accident-prone, such as hallways, staircases, and bathrooms.
- Address trip and slip risks
Steps, cobbled pathways, rugs, and other trip and slip risks need addressing as soon as you get old enough to risk serious injury if you fall. Remove rugs, replace cobbled pathways with a flat surface, and consider installing an inclined plane on outdoor steps to reduce the risk of tripping and falling. It’s also a good idea to lay down anti-slip rugs in bathrooms and the kitchen where the risk of slipping is highest.
- Move your bedroom to the first floor
If you have a spare room on the first floor, consider converting it into your new bedroom. This way, you put less strain on your knees climbing up and down the steps all day. Doing so also gives you easy access to the kitchen when you need a drink in the middle of the night, as well as the front door in case of emergencies.
Home modifications that you can install later in life
As you grow older, getting from point A to B with ease becomes a greater priority. In the future, you will have to install modifications in your home that can make it easier for you to move around and, at the same time, help you avoid accidents.
- Install handlebars
Install handlebars in the bathroom, specifically by the toilet and in the shower. This will make it easier for you to move around safely and with less pain (if you are suffering from joint pain). In case you slip, having a handle bar to grab onto can also save you from a nasty fall.
- Consider a walk-in tub or shower seat
A walk-in tub is basically just like a regular tub, except that you don’t have to step over a high edge to get into it.
If you only have a shower, put a seat in there to relieve some tension off your knees while washing. You can have one built into the shower itself, but you can also purchase a shower seat specifically designed for older adults.
- Build a wheelchair ramp
Hopefully, you will never have to use a wheelchair in your life. But if you think that you might need one in the future, consider building a wheelchair ramp on the entrances of your home to make mobility easier if ever you do find yourself needing a wheelchair.
- Replace hard-to-open fixtures
Opening doors and faucets can become increasingly difficult–and painful–as you age. To prevent this problem altogether, replace your door knobs and faucet handles with easy-open ones as early as possible.
Home updates to increase your security
Criminals deem older adults as easy targets because they are less likely to be able to defend themselves during a home invasion or robbery. With that in mind, it pays to upgrade your home security–no matter what age you might be.
- Install a home security system
Embrace the wonders of a modern security system that can protect your home from intruders. Most models today alert local authorities once a breach is detected. And, at the same time, the system will blare alarms that are loud enough to wake up you, your neighbors, and potentially scare off the criminals.
- Protect your home with security cameras
A home security system is not enough. In this day and age, you also need to have security cameras around your property to catch a criminal in the act and–if they get away–potentially reveal their identity for later apprehension. Luckily, most security system models nowadays include security cameras as a package deal, and you can install signs around your home that say you have security cameras to deter ill-meaning individuals.
- Never make it seem no one is home
Even when you aren’t at home, make sure that it looks like someone is. For instance, you can leave a light on in the bedroom until you get back, or install a fake TV light in the living room to make it look like that someone is awake and watching TV. Also, avoid parking your car in the driveway so that you don’t tip off criminals that no one is home when your car is gone.
If you’re going to be gone for more than a day, ask a neighbor or family member to collect your mail so that it doesn’t pile up on your doorstep. It also helps to ask someone to drop by your home from time to time to make it seem that the house is always occupied.
Aging in place can be a wonderful experience for many older adults. However, there are inherent risks that you must actively avoid, especially if you plan to live alone or with another senior. Whether you are nearing retirement or are already well into it, use these tips as a starting point to making your home a safer place to live.