General Aging-in-Place Home Updates
Address these concerns throughout the property.
Brighten up lighting.
Bathroom trips in the middle of the night can be disorienting, and dim lighting doesn’t help. Add motion-detecting nightlights to illuminate all areas even in the dark and install working light switches at the top and bottom of every staircase, if you don’t have them already.
Use brighter light bulbs throughout the home, recommends the CDC. You can also add smart lamp plugs, programming them to turn on at dusk and by voice request.
And don’t forget about the yard and driveway. “Assess outside pathways that may need extra lighting to be able to see well at night,” Kent says.
Look for piles of magazines or books on the floor, stray charging cables, power cords, and so on. All these items pose potential tripping hazards. In general, you want to create clear walkways, so you may have to ditch some small, lesser-used furniture.
Ensure easy entry into the home and rooms.
Examine the stairs and pavement around the property, looking for cracks and other tripping hazards. For better visibility, use vivid paint on the top edge of all stairs, per the CDC. To reduce the likelihood of falls, you can also add non-stick tread. Make sure to have railings in place by any staircase or set of steps, and ensure that railings are well-secured.
Replace door knobs with levers, suggests Dak Kopek, PhD, an architectural psychologist and associate professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Levers are easy for anyone to open, even if stiff joints make grab-and-twist motions challenging. (You can also swap cabinet knobs in the kitchen and bathroom for easier-to-grip options.)
People who use walkers or wheelchairs might benefit from wider door frames as well as ramps in place of steps.
Make sure floors are smooth.
As we get older, we lift our feet less high as we step, Kopek says, which can make tripping more common. Cut the likelihood of a fall by removing area rugs. Carpets should also be secured, not peeling up at the edges.
Some homes may have raised humps at thresholds or where one room transitions into another. They may look small, but Kopek warns, those bumps can be a horrible tripping hazard. A contractor can help with necessary adjustments to ensure a smooth surface.
Every home should have a working smoke detector and carbon monoxide monitor, but other technology, including smart home devices, can support successful aging in place. “An easy-to-use security system is beneficial so that seniors will have peace of mind without needing a degree from MIT to use it,” says Peter Ross, CEO of Senior Helpers.
A medical panic button—worn as a necklace or clipped on a belt—connects to a monitoring center whose reps will contact first responders on your behalf, says Christina Robinson, content marketer at AAA Smart Home Security. “It’s a good option in case you can’t reach a phone,” she says.
A smart thermostat—which adjusts the temperature automatically, reducing the need for early morning and late night walks to the thermostat—is a particularly useful device for seniors. (Similarly, AAA Smart Home Security’s temperature sensor sends a notification when temperatures reach over 100 degrees or drop under 40 degrees.)
Robinson also recommends the 180° Wellness Camera. Along with having an activity monitor which can alert others to unusual activity or lack thereof, it includes a button for easy contact with caregivers or loved ones.
For seniors with mobile phones, save important contacts and emergency numbers as favorite contacts for quick dialing. Otherwise, place a printed list of important numbers (doctors, police station, etc.) in a central location, such as the fridge door.
Opt for chairs and couches with arms.
Furniture with sturdy arms makes it easier for people to get up. “The person can hold onto the arms in a near-standing position,” Kopek says. Avoid delicate chairs that might topple with weight, he adds.