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Creating A Senior-Friendly Home Environment For Yourself Or Others

Senior woman using cane and vertical rail to navigate wooden steps.
Navigating Stairways Can Become More Difficult & Hazardous As We Age

The skill-sets and needs or limitations of seniors can vary greatly but there are some commonalities among all those who are aging and some basic concepts to consider as you or a loved one reaches their senior years.

The terms 'aging in place' and 'accessibility' are often used to describe many of the common ways that seniors and their friends and family can help to adapt their living environment for maximum comfort, safety, and enjoyment for all ages. The strategies for achieving an accessible or aging in place environment depend almost entirely on the individual and their companions. For example, someone hard of hearing may require an amplified telephone and have difficulty hearing a television set at the usual volume. If living with others, or in an apartment setting, it will likely be important that a solution for hearing the television include a headset so that others are not negatively affected by the solution.

One very common trait that we all develop as we grow older is the reduced speed of recovery from injury. What in our younger years may have been something that would only take a week to get over may take twice, three times as long, or possibly even a longer time frame to make the same recovery. Fall prevention is an important aspect of creating a senior-friendly home environment for this very reason. While a very simple concept, fall prevention can take many forms. Removing or securing floor rugs, repairing bunched up carpeting, lighting improvements for both day and night time, anti-slip bath mats, grab bars, and seats that are easy to get in and out of, with arms, are all non-instrusive ways to help prevent falling. If hard wood or another potentially slick surface is present, consider purchasing socks that provide additional grip to avoid slipping. The installation of railings or grab bars may also be beneficial. Using reachers instead of ladders is another simple, small solution that can prevent falls which can lead to large, complicated and costly issues for seniors. While the goal and the best solution is to prevent falls from occurring, it may also be important to consider if a fall does occur. Even something as minor as a change in medication or a pet under one's feet, can cause an otherwise well-balanced individual to stumble and/or fall. Eliminating sharp edged and hard surfaces where falls may occur can help prevent additional injury as the result of a fall. We all fall at one time or another, but as we age, these falls are more likely to cause greater issues, and for some, falls become more likely.

Vision is another aspect of life that often changes for individuals throughout the aging process. When considering vision, contrast and lighting is key in addition to size. Having available lights and magnification tools can greatly enhance an individual's ability to handle their mail and conduct personal business. Being able to read, to see the television, and generally being able to receive the news, can be an issue of safety in addition to one of happiness and well-being. Being connected is a critical aspect of being prepared which can be taken for granted. Storm warnings, road conditions, and other important pieces of information we all regularly use to be safe and responsible in how we live our lives. Access to information is not a luxury but a necessity for seniors, as it is for all of us. A vision or hearing impairment can negatively affect our ability to receive such information. Vision loss can also create hazards when walking and obviously while driving, particularly at night, or even when trying to determine an expiration date on a food item in the refrigerator. The important thing to remember is that the loss of vision or hearing itself can lead to other issues related to mobility, communication, and overall health and well-being but can also be addressed properly through the array of technology now available.

But to avoid going too far into all of the various ways in which seniors can experience challenges in daily life, there is an important concept to keep in mind: Simplicity. Most of us find as we age that less is more. The large home is now less preferred than a small, easier to manage space. Some of all the 'things' we spent so long collecting are now just in the way, literally and figuratively. The multi-level house with so much space now just means more cleaning. It is important to plan your aging in place or senior-friendly environment with these principles of simplicity in mind. Rather than trying to find out how you or a loved one might be able to go up and down the stairs to do laundry, it may make sense to consider moving the washer and drier out of the basement and onto the main floor as a simpler solution. Being mindful of the challenges that present obstacles for us as we age, allows us to find solutions and to remove the physical and communication obstacles that we can in order to allow ourselves and our loved ones to enjoy all of the positive aspects of life as a senior.

Personal care services can be an important solution for those who want to live independently or with family that provides many necessary benefits for seniors and individuals with disabilities. Cooking a meal, for example, may not be safe due to an individual's limitations in using kitchen appliances. Getting dressed independently each morning may not be possible due to a physical disability. These needs go beyond any environmental solution, requiring physical assistance to perform these tasks, and personal care services can provide a welcome alternative to nursing home placement. But in addition to the assistance provided in these circumstances, ensuring that the living environment is one that is mindful of the individual's capacities and limitations offers a positive approach to improve quality of life, comfort, and safety.

For devices and supplies related to independent living, we recommend visiting

For personal care or home care services in the state of Missouri, please call Access Personal Care at 816-822-7432.

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