How to Age in Place
Aging in place is linked to higher quality of life and a longer life for seniors. Independence is important and moving late in life can be traumatic. Aging in place is what most everyone wants, once their needs for social interaction are met. So how do you find a home now that allows you to do that?
Whether you're looking to buy a new home or update your existing home to age, here are some features to look for. 1. Small touches throughout the home. Look for features that are easier to work if mobility is impaired. Rocker light switches are easier to work than toggle switches. The same is true of lever style door handles over knobs. Add technology driven devices where possible, like thermostats that work from a smart phone or door locks with RFID chips that mean no fumbling with keys.
2. Think about balance. Bathrooms should include rails, but adding things like wainscoting and chair rails throughout are another way to help with balance if they protrude far enough and are firmly affixed to the wall. Check out this article about choosing the right grab bars for your needs.
3. Lighting matters. A surprising trip hazard for seniors are glares from windows. Glares can cause perception issues. To avoid that, add indirect lighting in all rooms. The Aging in Place guide recommends "a color temperature between 2,700 and 3,000, as well as a color rendering index of 100. Two-way switches are recommended. They are particularly useful in bedrooms, so you can turn the light on upon entering through the doorway, and turn it off from the bedside."
4. Flooring to reduce falls. Carpet can pose a trip hazard, so opt for soft and smooth surfaces, like cork, rubber, and linoleum. Keep the flooring level throughout the house as much as possible. If there's a necessary level change, make sure to mark it with a change in flooring or a different color at the edge. Keep in mind that bold flooring patterns might make it difficult to see level changes, so stick to more monotone floors.
5. Kitchens aren't just for standing. For most of our lives we stand in the kitchen. As we age, standing for long periods of time shouldn't be a reason to stop cooking. Instead, opt for a section of counter to be lowered so that you can sit and prepare ingredients. If changing the counter height is out of the question, add an island on wheels that you can keep out of the way and bring it in when needed. You can even find ones with adjustable heights to accommodate chairs or walkers. While we're talking about kitchens, add D type pulls to cabinetry. They're easier to grasp than knobs.