Home accessibility isn’t just about installing costly machinery such as stairlifts, ramps, or patient lifts. If you, a loved one, or one of your patients are looking to age at home rather than in a facility, there are plenty of basic steps you can take to make this process as simple and safe as possible.
Keep reading for five basic home accessibility tips to make your home senior friendly and make aging in place a safe and comfortable experience. Make sure you check our blog regularly for more information about home accessibility and aging in place, or contact us for more information on home modifications for seniors.
Home Accessibility 101
1. Minimize The Risk of Falls
This may seem obvious, but it is important nonetheless. According to Veterans Affairs Canada, falls account for more than half of all injuries among seniors, making them the leading cause of injury for the elderly in Canada. However, falls are also the most preventable risk to health among senior Canadians.
One of the simplest ways to prevent falls in and around the home is by removing tripping hazards. Before you consider investing in expensive home accessibility equipment, assess your house for major tripping hazards and address them.
This can include simple tasks such as removing rugs in transit areas (such as the hallway, the living room, etc) and picking up any stray objects that may have ended up on the floor (such as pet toys). If you must hold onto a particular rug or mat, make sure you underlay it with a anti-slip pad, and even consider taping it in place.
Also make sure any transit areas are clear and easy to maneuver through. This may mean redecorating a little bit and removing any furniture from hallways, or rearranging the living room to allow people to move through it easily.
Finally, make sure you wipe up any spills IMMEDIATELY to avoid any slips in areas such as the kitchen or the laundry, and make sure any electrical cords are out of the way.
2. Install Grab Bars and Lever-Style Door Handles
Don’t rely on pieces of freestanding furniture as a place to hold onto as they may tumble or cause extra injury in the event of a fall. Instead, consider installing simple home accessibility equipment such as grab bars or handrails in dangerous or difficult areas such as hallways, stairs, or the bathroom for extra comfort and safety. For more information, please see our previous post about installing grab bars.
While handrails and grab bars have previously lacked a certain aesthetic appeal, manufacturers now offer a variety of bars and rails with different textures, feels, colors, and sizes to complement a variety of decor. Click here for our range of grab bars and handrails, or feel free to contact us directly for more information.
3. Let There Be Light!
This is another big tip we cannot avoid repeating: Make sure your home is well-lit, especially in areas such as entrances, stairs, bathrooms, and hallways.
Make sure the areas around both the front and back doors of your house are well-lit to make it as easy as possible to unlock and open the door. It is also a good idea to install lighting fixtures that have two light bulbs in these areas, just in case one of the bulbs goes out. Also install some bright lighting in your driveway, and any paths leading to your front door or backyard.
Consider installing nightlights in hallways, bedrooms, and bathrooms to make it safe and easy to move around your home at night. Motion-activated light fixtures are another great alternative to regular lighting, allowing you to light up the necessary areas of your home without needing to flick a switch.
Finally, install some task lighting fixtures in your kitchen and bathroom cabinets and even bookshelves and dressers to save you digging around in the dark to find what you’re looking for.
4. Install Automatic Door Openers
It may be worthwhile installing automatic door openers on the interior doors of your house. These basic home accessibility aids will make it extra easy to move around your home, especially if you suffer from conditions that affect your strength and dexterity, such as arthritis.
If you use a walker or wheelchair, you may also want to install basic threshold ramps on the exterior doors of your house. If you find it hard to move through doorways with a mobility aid such as a wheelchair, walker, or scooter, exchange the regular hinges on your doors for offset hinges. These will allow the opened door to swing completely out of the way of the frame, giving you more space to move through.
We also recommend removing round door handles and replacing them with lever-style handles. These are typically easier to use, especially for seniors with limited strength or dexterity. These handles are very simple to remove and replace on your own, and can make moving around the home more easy and comfortable.
Finally, it may prove worthwhile to research ways to reduce the threshold of your doorways. Older homes tend to lack integrated weather-stripping around the doorframe, creating a higher threshold and additional tripping hazard. Contact us for more tips about how to address this and remove the extra tripping hazard around your exterior doors.
5. Create Senior-Friendly Stairs
Stairs are an obvious risk for seniors wanting to age at home. However, there are some simple steps you can take to make them as safe as possible.
As we have already mentioned, make sure your stairways are ALWAYS well lit; it is a good idea to install a motion-activated lighting fixture above your stairs so you don’t have to remember to turn the lights on and off.
Secondly, apply some screw-on aluminium nosing to the leading edge of the stair treads. This will make each stair easy to see and judge, and will also provide a ribbed surface for extra grip for your feet. These can be installed on both solid and carpeted stairs with just a few screws.
Also install handrails on EITHER side of the stairs to make sure you have plenty to hold onto with both hands. If you are bound to a wheelchair, you may need to consider installing a stair lift to allow you to keep using your stairs. If so, feel free to contact us for more information about stair lifts.
Finally, remove any loose rugs or other tripping hazards from the stairs to minimize the risk of falls.
For more information about home accessibility, home modifications for seniors, and any of our products and services, contact us today. We are more than happy to help with any of your enquiries.