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Health & Wellness

Five Changes to Make in Your Home Today that may Help with Aging in Place Tomorrow

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You’ve spent years, maybe decades, making your home comfortable. Friends and family, favorite restaurants, parks and walking paths are all nearby.

As you imagine your life 10 or 20 years from now, you may see it taking place in the home and community you love, enjoying what has come to be known as “aging in place.” Making modifications to your home today may help you achieve the tomorrow you envision. Some of these modifications are simple and low-cost while others may require a budget, more planning and the help of a professional.  

For guidance we spoke to Anne Kellett, an interior designer based in San Diego, who has nearly 40 years of experience in this field. As a Certified Aging in Place Specialist and a baby boomer herself, Kellett says, “I enjoy incorporating more universal design features into my spaces so my clients can ‘age gracefully’ in their homes.”

Here are five changes, simplest first, that may help make aging in place a possibility.

Prevent Falls

“The environment you lived in very comfortably as a younger person may present risks as you age,” Kellett says. “Think safety first.” That means removing anything that is a tripping hazard, including throw rugs and boxes and other items piling up on steps and in doorways. “You want clear, uncluttered walkways,” she says. 

Improve Lighting

“Aging eyes can require more light than those of a 30-year-old,” Kellett says. “Evaluate your sources of light and their placement. You want to layer different types of lighting. If you have only one lighting source in a room, such as a ceiling light, consider adding additional lamps to illuminate the entire space, as well as task lighting for reading and other activities.”

Walking to the bathroom at night may present a tripping hazard. Plug-in motion-sensor night lights are an easy solution. These illuminate the space for 15 to 30 seconds, making your bathroom trek safer without turning all of the lights on.

Create “No-Step” Entryways

When you face any kind of mobility challenge getting into your home when there are steps to negotiate can be challenging. What’s known as a “no-step threshold” eliminates that hurdle.  Here, the sidewalk or driveway to your front door has no stairs and little slope. A small aluminum or rubber ramp is one type of fix. “There are some very attractive solutions available,” Kellett says. For inspiration, search for “no-step threshold” or “transition threshold” online.

Replace Your Bathroom Floor with a No-Slip Surface

The bathroom is the room where most accidents in the home happen, Kellett says. Slippery floors are a common culprit. “You want a floor that has some friction or texture to it,” Kellett says. “That means no marble in the bathroom and smaller tiles, rather than larger ones, so there’s more grout in between.” If you’re shopping for a new tile floor, ask about the “dynamic coefficient of friction,” a measure of how slippery the surface is when wet.

Make Your Kitchen More User-Friendly

To keep your kitchen functional as you age, you’ll want everything from appliances to pantry goods within easy reach. That might mean rearranging your cupboards so the items you use most frequently are on the lower shelves. A dishwasher that’s raised off the floor will make it possible for you to load and unload dishes without having to bend. Likewise, consider a microwave oven that’s at counter height rather than mounted above your stovetop.

“Whenever you’re doing any kind of renovation, no matter what your age,” Kellett, “it’s a good idea to consider universal design features.” These elements, can make your home comfortable and accessible for people of all ages and abilities.

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