Health & Wellness

Planning to Age in Place? Try These Tips

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If you wish to stay in your home as you grow older, you’re not alone.

According to a survey by AARP [1], 87 percent of adults 65 and older are more likely to say they want to age in their current home and community.

And why wouldn’t you? There’s comfort, independence, familiarity—it’s your home, after all. The key to aging in place, says interior designer Diane Kitchell, is to plan ahead. Kitchell, who is studio leader for interior design at Harrington College of Design in Chicago and director of healthcare, education and workplace design for Interior Image Group, recently earned her Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) designation from National Association of Home Builders. With that certification, she says one of her goals is to help seniors stay comfortably in their homes for as long as they can. To do those things, a few small changes can help. Kitchell shared the following advice.

  1. Get rid of tripping and slipping hazards. Slippery floors, area rugs that might slide, furniture that could get in the way, bumps in flooring that could catch you off guard—get rid of all of that and make sure your pathways are clear throughout the home.
  2. Make handrails a priority. On stairs, a handrail is imperative, says Kitchell. “As much as everybody loves the beautiful flowing staircases, they can be dangerous,” she says. “You have to be careful.” In addition, she says throughout the home it may be helpful to have a “continuous touchpoint”—i.e. some kind of furniture or a handrail at midlevel that you can place your hand on for support in the bedroom, hallways and the bathroom to help with balance, should you need it.
  3. If buying a new home to grow old in, avoid stairs. “Stairs can pose a challenge,” says Kitchell. She says to look for a home that has the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen all on the same level.
  4. Pay close attention to lighting. “Good lighting is key in any danger zone,” says Kitchell. In particular, she says to be sure to have bright lighting in the kitchen (where you’ll be preparing food), along paths, between rooms, in places where you’ll be reading or paying bills and in the bathroom, where you may notice changes in your appearance (like a new spot on your skin) that could cue you in to a health concern. She says having some kind of low lighting to light your way at night is also helpful. 
  5. Consider purchasing chairs and sofas with higher arms. Those taller arms will give you something to hold onto as you stand up and sit down, guiding you into place and aiding in stability. “It’s a simple thing to look for that could help a lot,” she says.
  6. Be ready for anything. Change happens fast, whether it’s an unexpected illness, a fall or a surgery. Kitchell says there are little things you can do ahead of time, such as making meals in advance and having them in the freezer, paying bills early and investing in good, supportive pillows that can help you sleep in different positions comfortably. One of the challenges of aging is the loss of control. With careful planning, you control what you can and take everything else as it comes.

Are you planning to age in place? What changes are you making to prepare?

References:

1. AARP Public Policy Institute, “What is livable? Community Preferences of Older Adults.” 

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