To age in place is becoming a term used frequently in the senior population. According to research by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), nearly 90 percent of seniors want to stay in their own homes as they age, often referred to as ‘aging in place’.
Everyone is different, and has specific needs to be considered for their living spaces. We also want to keep our independent lifestyles, and do as much for ourselves as possible. That can happen when our home is setup based on our specific needs.
As a professional organizer that specializes in rightsizing for seniors, I’m often asked if I do space planning as part of the organizing process. The answer is yes. There are a lot of reasons why this is an important aspect of all our homes. The most important is safety. The next reason down on the list is comfort. Too much stuff, including furniture, is considered clutter, and clutter is stagnant energy. You want the energy in your home to flow freely to create a peaceful environment.
There are many things to consider in terms of creating safety and independence in a senior’s living environment. Whether they age in place or live in a retirement community, you want to ensure that your loved ones have living spaces that allow them to thrive in the next chapters of their lives. Listed below are some things to consider as you help create, or retrofit the living spaces for your senior loved ones. If you have an idea not shown in this list, I would love it if you comment in the section below.
• Furniture – The size and amount of the furniture in your home needs to be proportionate to your living space. If you use a wheelchair or a walker, you need to make sure there is enough room to navigate around the furniture. If possible, place the pieces around the perimeter of the room to allow for optimal navigation.
• Cleaning – Consider hiring a cleaning service if your physical capabilities won’t allow you to do it anymore. Spills that aren’t cleaned up promptly can cause a nasty fall.
• Expired food products – Check for expired food products before you make a trip to the grocery store. You could end up with duplicates that you don’t need. And you don’t want to get sick from eating expired foods.
• Throw rugs – Throw rugs are a huge tripping hazard! If you have them on your floors, make sure they are under heavy furniture, or discard them.
• Coffee tables – They can become obstacles in terms of navigation. A side table next to a chair or couch is a better choice.
• Personal alert system – In case of an emergency such as taking a fall, you press the button on your device, and the company is alerted and will call you through the box they install in your home. You speak to them wherever you are in the house to explain the emergency so they can send the help that you need. You wear a device at all times and they typically come in 2 forms; wrist or pendant. A smoke/carbon monoxide detector typically comes with the system. The company is alerted through the system if you have a fire or gas leak and they will send help right away. If you have an intruder you press the button and they send help. This system works in any emergency.
• Bathroom – The bathroom can have many safety challenges. If you own your home, you may want to consider contacting an interior designer that specializes in working with seniors. They have the expertise to design your bathroom, or any room to accommodate your needs. One of the biggest bathroom challenges is getting in and out of the bathtub. A walk in shower with a chair and a hand held shower head is a better choice. If you have a small bathroom, and navigate with a walker or wheelchair, you may need to consider giving up a bedroom to enlarge the bathroom.
• Medications – Remembering to take the right medications at the right time of day can be challenging. And if you don’t take them, your health can be at risk. There are many products on the market to help organize your medications, and even to prompt you to take them at the correct times. At the very least, you need a list of the medications with the doses and times they need to be taken.
• Stairs – Larger homes may have multiple levels and can present a challenge going up and down the stairs. Installing a chair lift can help to alleviate this challenge.
What other safety tips would you recommend for seniors to age in place?