‘Home Renovation for Seniors to Stay at Home (Age in Place)’ Posts

Aging in Place: Safety Tips for Your Kitchen

March 3rd, 2016 by Doris Bersing

Aging in Place: Safety TipsBecause 90% of us do not want to leave our homes but to age in place, we need to pay attention to places like the kitchen that can be unsafe for us as we grow older. The kitchen is the heart of your home—and it’s also one of the most important spaces to remodel when it comes to aging in place. You’ll need to be able to make regular use of your kitchen, and the harder it is to access important appliances, locate your cookware, or even walk across the floor, the more dangerous it can be. Your kitchen can remain inviting and stylish while being loaded with accessibility features and convenience that will make it ideal for your senior years.

The Floor 

When it comes to your kitchen floor, you have to start with the floor plan. Make sure that it’s wheelchair accessible, with plenty of room to maneuver. Place cabinets conveniently, so that they’re close to the counters and stoves where they’ll be needed, but keep them out of the pathway so that it’s easy to move around them. Next, look at your food preparation areas. You’ll want to be sure that countertops are at the right height for use from a wheelchair. Adjustable countertops can make it easier for you to keep using them as usual until you need a wheelchair and make it more comfortable for others who might share in food preparation responsibilities.

Next, look at your seating. While you don’t want to clutter up your kitchen or make it impossible to get around, you do need to have readily-accessible seating to make food preparation easier. Make sure that you have comfortable, sturdy seats: you don’t want to have to rely on a bar stool if your legs get shaky! Leave plenty of room around the table for a wheelchair, but don’t skimp on comfortable seating, either. You can always move a chair away to make it more easily accessible later.

Your kitchen flooring is almost as important as the floor plan. First, accept that the cute rugs that you enjoyed in your earlier years are a thing of the past: they can lead to trips, slips, and falls. Next, begin your search for a kitchen floor that will be durable and slip-resistant while still looking great. Cork, rubber, and linoleum are all excellent choices for seniors, as are smaller tile that have more grout lines—see here for some ideas.

Lighting

 While aging eyes can be exceptionally sensitive to bright lights, you still want to be sure that you can see clearly enough to accomplish all the necessary tasks in your kitchen. Make the most of natural light: big windows that are free of curtains and blinds are ideal for the brightest possible room. Next, install ambient lighting that will illuminate the room at a comfortable level. A dimmer switch can help make it easier to reduce lighting if your eyes are feeling sensitive. You should, however, make sure there’s plenty of task lighting over the stove and in food preparation areas so that it will be easier to focus on your current task.

It’s also important to ensure that you’ll have the light you need when you’re navigating the room at night. Make sure that light switches are available at every entrance to the room. Consider installing motion sensors on the lights so that it will kick on automatically if you walk into the room in the middle of the night. If this is impractical, you can also put in nightlights to help provide some light if you’re just taking a quick trip to the kitchen.

Appliances 

The appliances you choose for your kitchen should reflect your changing needs as you get older. Your microwave, for example, should be simple to operate, with big, visible buttons that are easy to press. An electric stove with large dials and simple operating instructions is best, but if you do have a gas range, make sure that it has a pilot light and auto-shutoff feature. Your dishwasher should be positioned conveniently next to the sink. Consider installing one that’s higher off the ground to make it easier to load and unload as your mobility decreases. Senior-friendly sinks are shallow and easy to reach from a wheelchair. Choose a refrigerator that reflects your needs: large enough to hold several days of pre-prepped meals if necessary. Think about the layout of your refrigerator and where the doors will open as well as the shelves that will be accessible from a wheelchair.

Cabinets

 Organize your cabinets carefully so that they will remain fully accessible. Place items that you use most frequently in cabinets that are easiest to reach. Consider drawer pull-outs in cabinets that may be difficult to access from a wheelchair or as your mobility decreases. You should also make sure that your cabinets are shallow enough that you can easily reach to the back.

Accessories

 Knobs, switches, and faucets can be some of the most frustrating items in your kitchen when your fingers aren’t as nimble as they once were. Look for knobs that are large and easy to hold, switches that can be operated simply, and faucets that use one lever to switch between hot and cold to make it easier to adjust the water to the right temperature. Make sure that any labels on levers and switches are in clear, large fonts that you’ll be able to read even after your eyesight begins to decrease.

Your kitchen is one of the most important rooms in your home. You need to be able to prepare food, eat, and host guests with ease. Luckily, there are plenty of products on the market that are designed with an aging population’s needs in mind. Take the time to think through your future needs now to ensure that when the day comes, you have a kitchen that will allow you to maintain your independence and age in place, at home where you want to be.

Home Modifications to Support Aging In Place

November 21st, 2015 by Doris Bersing
gero technology TO LIVE AND age WELL

LIVING WELL PIONEER OF HIGH TECH IN HOME CARE

Aging in place is a term used to describe a person living in the residence of their choice, for as long as they are able, as they age. Most adults would prefer to age in place—that is, remain in their home of choice as long as possible. In fact, 90 percent of adults over the age of 65 report that they would prefer to stay in their current residence as they age.

The focus of aging in place is to help seniors ensure they can live where they choose and get any help they need for as long as they can. The goal of an elderly person (or anyone) wanting to age in place should be to maintain and/or improve their quality of life. In order to do that, a good plan that focuses on quality of life and covers your self, home, finances, care and other items should be created as early as possible. This plan should be maintained over time as your situation changes. This includes being able to have any services (or other support) they might need over time as their needs change, including safety monitoring, home care assistance, or home renovation, while maintaining their quality of life. Some examples of home modifications include: increased lighting, accessible switches at both ends of the stairs, additional railings, grab bars, nonskid flooring, a hand-held, flexible shower head, walk-in bathtubs, and the removal of throw rugs and clutter. In most cases, home modifications can be simple and cost-effective, while simultaneously offering substantial benefits to the individual.

We thank Liz Greene [1] for her ideas about home renovation. She proposes 5 home modifications to support aging in place. She said “…It’s not easy to choose which living arrangements will suit you later in life. So much depends on your health, mobility, and family situation. However, with the cost of senior living on the rise, many people are choosing to grow older in their own homes rather than moving into assisted living communities. Nonetheless, aging in place comes with a host of considerations, not the least of which is modifying your home http://www.ageinplace.org to accommodate your changing needs. If you’ve decided to stay in your home for the long haul, think about implementing some of the following modifications to make the transition easier.

Pull-Down and Pull-Out Shelving

Bending, stooping, reaching — these motions become harder on your joints as you age. Regular exercise can help alleviate pain and increase mobility, but it’s not a bad idea to eliminate situations where you’re putting more strain on your body than necessary. Installing pull-down and pull-out shelving in your closets and kitchen cabinets will allow you to reach out of the way items without having to strain or use a step stool. These devices are inexpensive, easy to install, and an almost effortless way to improve accessibility.

Grab Bars

Grab bars are an absolute must have if you plan to age in place. Install grab bars next to the toilet to provide balance while sitting down, give leverage when rising from a seated position, and help transfer from a wheelchair to the toilet seat and back. Place them next to the bathtub and in the shower to help maintain balance while standing or moving, assist in maneuvering into and out of the enclosure, and help reduce slips and falls. Put in floor to ceiling grab bars, or security poles, in the bedroom to assist in getting in and out of bed. While many grab bars tend to have an institutional look, some manufacturers are releasing newer models that are more aesthetically pleasing. This allows you to add stability and safety to your home without sacrificing personal style.

Walk in Tubs

Traditional bathtubs can be 20” or higher from the bathroom floor — clearly not designed for those who suffer from mobility problems. This is where walk in tubs come in. Walk in tubs offer a watertight door that opens so you can easily walk into and out of the tub. Most walk in tubs include a chair-height seat for a comfortable and secure bath and a non-skid floor to minimize slips and falls.

Curbless Showers

Curbless showers are designed to provide a safe and convenient alternative to traditional bathtubs. Curbless shower floors are flush with floors in adjoining spaces, allowing you to safely walk or roll a wheelchair into the shower without getting tripped up by a raised threshold. Curbless showers are a favorite in universal design as they are not only stylish, but friendly to users of all ages.

Sinks

Sinks can prove especially inaccessible to people in wheelchairs. Luckily there are accessible sink options for both the bathroom and kitchen. To provide space beneath a bathroom sink for wheelchairs and other mobility devices, install a wall-mounted sink. Wall-mounted sinks have no vanity cabinet or supporting legs underneath to get in the way. For the kitchen, consider a push-button, adjustable-height sink that gives each user a custom fit. The sink can be raised and lowered between 28 and 36 inches with the simple push of a button. This is ideal when you live with people with varied heights and mobility.

It takes some fore thought when designing your home to adapt to your needs as you age. However, if you do it right, you’ll find you’ll be able to live a happy, comfortable life in your own space, free of the cost and ordinances of retirement communities and assisted living centers.

[1] Liz Greene is a writer and former preschool teacher from Boise, Idaho. She’s a lover of all things geek and is happiest when cuddling with her dogs and catching up on the latest Marvel movies. You can follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene

Aging in Place: Assistive Technology and Human Touch to Solve the Caregiving Issue

May 4th, 2015 by Doris Bersing

Aging in PlaceWe all know those smart and dynamic elders, who used to be professionals, hard workers, homemakers, very engaged in their communities, who slowly but surely, are aging with aches and pains and diminishing faculties, with some times chronic and debilitating diseases rising in the horizon. We all try to help them to little (or no) avail, since the response is: “I do not need help …I am not moving from my home…I am not going to one of those places full of old people”… Does it sound familiar? If you have an elderly parent or loved one in need of care and help, I am sure you have.

Many studies since 2007 have focused on Aging in Place and what seniors and baby boomers want. Besides being in denial of needing help, elders fear moving into a nursing home and losing their independence more than they fear death, according to a study, “Aging in Place in America,” commissioned by Clarity and The EAR Foundation, which also found that the Baby Boomer children of seniors also fear for their parents. Boomers express particular concern about their parents’ emotional and physical well being should they have to enter a nursing home, finds the study, which examines the attitudes and anxieties of the nation’s elderly population. Although since 1997 AARP survey, we know (89%) of the interviewees answer they wanted to stay at home, and age in place – or live independently, but more than half of those surveyed (53%) are concerned with their ability to do so.

Some of the issues that force older adults out of their homes is not only illness and frailty but houses that do not accommodate their needs, isolation, and lack of support –we know our communities, sad to say, are not equipped with volunteerism enough to help some of these seniors or systems that protect not only the low income ones but the middle class, as well.

Projects like Capable in Baltimore, where volunteers come helping seniors run errands and reach the next community even that day while retrofitting their houses has proven to keep seniors at home longer. The project started as a major research effort in the Baltimore area called the CAPABLE project – it stands for Community Aging in Place, Advancing Better Living for Elders – is sending handymen, nurses and occupational therapists into the homes of hundreds of low-income seniors aging in place to see how far $4,000 can go in preserving people’s independence. The project’s initial success has captured nationwide media attention and piqued the interest of federal officials straining to hold down Medicaid costs. If it can be scaled up and tried nationwide, it could potentially save U.S. taxpayers millions of dollars. The average cost of nursing home care in the U.S. is $6,700 a month, much of it paid through Medicaid, so even postponing a move to a nursing facility by just a few months can have a major impact.

Another well known solution but difficult to implement, on one hand because seniors resistance to technology, and on another because of baby boomers not turning their parents into it, is Gero-technology that can lower the cost of home care when needed and/or help keep seniors independently but safely at home. Aging in a high tech world is not easy for these seniors but there are agencies and resources in the community to help them and their families navigate through the maze of options and what is really needed.

These technologies go from the safety ones to guarantee people are safe at home, and monitor their comes-and-goes, as needed without invasion, to the tablets to communicate with loved ones, receive medication reminders, or access services in the community. Organizations like Living Well use leading-edge technologies to evaluate their members’ health and mental status, reduce the cost of care, communicate medical and other information to physicians and relatives, provide cognitive vitality programming and monitor personal safety. When needed, they will evaluate the layout of the home and undertake modifications to ensure mobility, access, and security. In addition, our professional housekeeping and maintenance staff keep our members’ homes updated, clean, and impeccably maintained.

Just today, May 4, 2015 California Health launched a report discussing the caregiving issue and if really this technology involving social networking and technology will “…save the day for one of America’s most intractable social problems — caring for the country’s aging population? The article proposes a different way of hiring caregivers but still posits the issue of just having a caregiver. One size does not fit all and for some of our loved ones just low-tech or high tech intervention can save the day. Now if in need of home care, options are there with agencies as the article states charging more than what a privately hired caregiver could cost but no- back up, or services that will monitor the process for you, and more. Read the article.

In reality, the high tech and high touch is a better answer. It is not only technology but the human connection what makes a real answer: personal services and advanced assistive technology can add a strong measure of comfort, convenience and control to those that desire to remain at home but have conditions that may limit their ability to move freely, communicate effectively or otherwise navigate their environment. Together they can ensure and encourage those that desire to age in place the opportunity to do so with safety and choices for the seniors and peace of mind for family members and friends. Check all the options and remember one size-does-not-fit all.

Areas of the Home Where Automation Can Help

September 22nd, 2014 by Doris Bersing

Room Thermostat VaillantFor many of us, staying at home while living as safely independent as possible is the greatest challenge and simultaneously the greatest reward of aging well. Recently, we published an article about ways to make daily tasks easier around the home for seniors and in this post, we’d like to take it a step further and touch on the advancements of home technology.

Advancements in technology that may at first seem complicated can, with just a little understanding, become options that enrich and make living easier. Consider implementing these home automation features to the home that can help seniors not only save them time and convenience, but energy costs as well.

Programmable Thermostats

Programmable thermostats, when given the chance, can help you control the temperature of a home, reduce your energy usage, and help you save significantly on annual energy costs. Not all programmable thermostats have the same features, so here are some key aspects to keep in mind when deciding which programmable thermostat is best for your needs:

  • Intelligent Learning. Your energy use at home may differ throughout various times of the day. Programmable thermostats allow you to use less energy heating or cooling an empty home or during dormant times such as while you’re asleep, then automatically alter settings based on your activity and routine. You will rarely have to adjust settings throughout the day because the thermostat will do the adjusting for you.
  • Device Operation. Surveys done in most recent years show that while majority of the population owns a smartphone, of those, seniors are the fastest growing group. So for those that have adapted to the convenience smart devices offer seniors, a programmable thermostat may be right up their alley. Most of today’s programmable thermostats also come with app-operated features, allowing you to receive alerts and adjust setting from the convenience of your own phone or device at just about any location.
  • Multi-Day Models Not all seniors spend their days at home; many may find themselves away for a few hours most days or for several days when travelling. We know that not everyone’s daily habits are the same, so air conditioning experts suggest multi-day models for those seeking to implement programmable thermostats. These allow operators to set a suggested schedule during the weekdays that differ from weekend. Whatever your natural routine is, there’s a model for practically every type of lifestyle.

Automated Lighting

For many seniors, it’s migrating from one side of the home to another that can be more of a task than it is for any younger adult. So the convenience automated lighting offers can help make the “flick of a switch” as easy as it sounds once again while simultaneously saving on annual energy costs. A relatively simple system can:

  • Switch interior and exterior lights both on and off without having to be in the same room. Most automated systems, similarly to programmable thermostats, are app or device-operated, allowing you to control the light settings in one area of the home while occupying another.
  • Prepare your home with scheduled light settings while away for extended leave. For those that travel, automated lighting can be the perfect solution to illuminate the home during your leave to deter any unwanted guests. And just as with daily light operation controls via app or device, this is also another feature that can be managed using a handheld device.

No matter how readily we embrace technological advances, there comes a time when problems can best be addressed with the help of skilled professionals. Most of modern day technology and innovation is created with the intention to make living easier and more efficient. By automating certain features in a home, seniors may find technology on their side to assist them in their daily living without the sacrifice of dignity or independence and add long-term savings in energy bills.

Living Well and Safely with Parkinson’s

July 30th, 2014 by Doris Bersing

dream-house-149899_150You often hear people with Parkinson’s say that things get easier once the initial shock of the diagnosis wears off. While no two people have the exact same experience or symptoms, the one thing that they do have in common is the desire to be able to continue living well. Over time, Parkinson’s can lead to difficulties with balance and walking making safety a concern for you and your loved ones. The following tips can help make day-to-day activities easier and safer.

In the Bathroom

According to the National Parkinson Foundation, most falls happen in the bathroom as the result of slipping, poor lighting, and getting on and off the toilet and in and out of the tub. To make your bathroom safer and easier to maneuver, try the following:

  • Install a grab bar in the shower and another near the toilet to hold on to for support. Never use towel bars or faucets for support since these could break.
  • Bath benches and shower stools make bathing and showering easier and can be used to sit on when using the sink when a dizzy spell strikes.
  • An elevated toilet seat provides the extra height needed to make sitting down and getting up easier.
  • Handheld showers make it easier to bathe, especially if you prefer to sit while doing so.
  • Adjusting your hot water temperature to less than 120 degrees lowers the risk of burns while washing.
  • Opt for pump soap instead of bar soap since bar soap tends to be slippery and leave a slippery film on tub and shower surfaces.

In the Kitchen

  • Install hooks to keep the pots and pans that you use the most within easy reach. Other items you use often when cooking can also be kept closer to the stove so you can cook with ease, like pot holders and spices.
  • Install longer cabinet and drawer handles; they’re easier to open than small handles and knobs.
  • Look for cooking utensils and gadgets that can make cooking safer, such as rubber grippers for opening jars and knives with a rounded blade and wooden handle that runs the length of the top of the knife for easy chopping.
  • Keep your kitchen floor clean and clear of anything that can cause you to trip. Any mats should be rubber backed.

In the Bedroom

  • Cute as some of those big and fuzzy slippers can be; choosing a pair of anti-slip slipper socks or a more streamlined closed shoe-type slipper with an anti-slip bottom makes walking around on different surfaces easier and much safer.
  • Keep a flashlight next to the bed in case of a power outage and have lamps and light switches close to the bed.
  • Have your bedroom on the first floor of a home if possible to avoid having to use the stairs at night.
  • A bedside commode or urinal can keep you from having to make trips to the bathroom in the dark. This is especially great if your washroom is on another floor than your bedroom.

In the Rest of the House or While Away

There are a few other things that you can do to help make your home—and any other home away from home that you stay in—a lot safer and easier to enjoy. Nightlights, which you can find at the dollar store in multiple styles, are great to keep in hallways, bathrooms, and the bedroom, as well as to take with you when you travel or stay with family. At home, avoid mats and rugs that can slide or roll up in any room of the house, especially in bathrooms, and request the same if staying somewhere else. Finally, a cordless phone allows you to carry the phone around the house with you and if the range allows, even take with you out onto the porch or yard in case you need to call for assistance or just don’t want to walk across the house to answer it when someone calls.


Adrienne is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals for Healthline, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board. You can connect with Adrienne on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/writeradrienne.

References

Seniors Aging in Place

March 3rd, 2014 by Doris Bersing

dream-house-149899_150

Guest Post by Jan Bolder, lead content writer for LivingSenior.com

The top desire of seniors is to maintain dignity, independence and quality of life as long as possible, and one of the easiest ways of achieving that is to age in place, or staying in their own home instead of transferring to an assisted living facility. For many seniors, though, this may seem unattainable, but all it requires is a few minor adjustments around the home.

Bedroom

Seniors—all people—spend about a third of their lives sleeping, and outfitting the room is the most important priority. It doesn’t take much to redo a bedroom so it’s safe and easy to navigate for seniors, but it does take a bit of time and planning.

The bed doesn’t need many alterations, but there are a few things that should be fixed so seniors can get in and out with ease, which is important if they wake up a lot during the night, and stay in comfortably.

 

  • Handrail: Affixing a handrail to the side of the bed is really easy and doesn’t cost much at all. Handrails specifically for adults don’t resemble the ones on children’s beds at all, as these ones look more like one side of a cube with a lip at the top and bottom. One of the lips slides in between the box spring and mattress, while the other one—the top lip—sits above the mattress and usually features curved, polished wood that’s easy to grip.
  • Footstool: Seniors shouldn’t sleep in beds too low to the ground because it can be hard on the joints, particularly the knees. As well, seniors with poor muscle strength may find it difficult to generate enough leg muscle power to stand up unassisted. With a footstool, though, seniors can bypass knee and muscle problems easily.
  • Floor Mat: Regardless of the surface of the floor in a senior’s bedroom, placing a walkway mat made of grippy rubber can help tremendously for walking around. If the floor is carpeted, the softness may make it hard to feel where the foot goes but it’s more cushioned for falls; a hard bare floor may be easier to navigate but is more unforgiving for trips and slips.
  • Nightlight: As seniors age, their eyes undergo two major changes—more rods than cones are lost (the photoreceptors that allow us to detect movement), and the muscles in the iris weaken (which control the dilation and restriction of the pupil and how much light is let in). Plugging in a small nightlight, such as in the corner or hallway, can often be enough of a difference maker to prevent falls in the night.

 

Bathroom

Remodeling a bathroom to make it more senior-friendly will take a bit more work than the bedroom, but not much, and the results will be instantaneously beneficial. One of the habits of seniors is to “birdbath”, where they stand in front of the kitchen sink and bathe themselves that way because it’s more physically secure.

To maintain dignity and quality of life, using the bathroom for its designated purpose and eschewing birdbaths is highly important, and the following changes can achieve that:

 

  • Guardrail: Coming in either portable plastic or permanent metal, guardrails are an essential part of showers and tubs for seniors. A good guardrail will have a roughened grip on it so it’s easy to hold, and be at a height that doesn’t require overextending the shoulder or arm.
  • Bathmat: The bottom of a shower or tub is slippery enough on its own, but add in water and soap, and it can quickly become extremely dangerous. Adhering a suction-cupped bathmat to the bottom of the tub or shower gives seniors extra stability.
  • Shower/Tub Chair: Some seniors may find it difficult to stand for long periods of time, and so a bath-ready chair provides an easy alternative. Look for a chair with arms on both sides, a slightly roughened seat for grip and stability, holes in the seat for water drainage, and rubber pads on the bottom of the feet for reduced movement.
  • Toilet Seat: A raised toilet seat makes it infinitely easier for seniors to sit down and stand up without worrying about getting stuck or falling. And because they’re made of plastic, they’re also easier to clean than regular toilet seats. As well, placing a handrail beside the toilet also assists the senior with getting on and off easily.

 

Stairs

Getting between floors in their house can be one of the most difficult tasks for a senior, and one of the largest barriers preventing them from aging in place. There are many services for seniors, such as driving them to appointments and activities or delivering meals, but if the senior can’t get to their front door, it’s all for naught.

One of the easiest ways to amend this is to install a handrail on the staircase, if there isn’t one there already. Other alterations may be a bit more costly, but just as necessary. For example, rebuilding the stairs to make them wider and shallower makes it much easier for seniors to get up and down on, and removing carpeting can also make a difference.

Kitchen

Because everybody needs to eat, a senior’s ability to cook for themselves is key to aging in place. Remove the ability to do that, and necessary assistance means non-independent living. However, making a kitchen senior-friendly is far easier to do than it looks.

The first step is to make it walkable, and that can be done with rubber, no-stick floor mats in front of key areas like the stove, sink, fridge, table, and door entrance. It’s better to spend a bit more money and get one with beveled edges to avoid tripping, and the better quality ones also have the added bonus of absorbing shock so seniors can stand for longer periods of time.

Small changes like bottom-weighted cups, an electric can opener, a footstool for high cabinets, pull-down shelves, and countertop microwaves all make it easier for a senior to use their own kitchen, thus enabling them to age in place much longer.

Aging In Place: New Initiatives Around the Country

October 24th, 2012 by Doris Bersing

Aging in PlaeRobin Stone, Researcher and Former Assistant Secretary for Aging wrote that “…Aging in place isn’t as easy as it sounds … she continues…Of course, we can’t yet guarantee that aging in place won’t be an exhausting struggle for older adults and their families. We have a lot more work to do before every older American can grow old easily wherever they choose…”

What Ms. Stone refers to has also to do with new initiatives that around the country are growing to pay more attention to the physical environment of our seniors to help them age gracefully, in place. Most important, she says,  “…we want to make sure that older adults … can look forward to living their later years exactly the way they want to live, in the place they want to call home.Read the article