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HOW TO SENIOR PROOF THE HOME FOR A BETTER AGING EXPERIENCE

Mya Care Blogger 26 Jul 2023
HOW TO SENIOR PROOF THE HOME FOR A BETTER AGING EXPERIENCE

Article Updated 26 July 2023

Aging is a process that typically affects all bodily systems and functions, creating different needs for elderly individuals to live comfortably. Naturally, the home environment plays a prominent role in assuring comfort.

Fortunately, a few basic tweaks around the house can help an older person transition through senescence. The below article attempts to explain some of the best ways in which you can senior-proof the home.

Living Factors That Affect Life Quality in Senescence

Not all elderly individuals will age in the same way and be exposed to the same challenges. For this reason, it is important to assess the specific needs of the person in question so that their home can be made more suitable.

One of the most prevalent themes of aging that affect a large portion of the elderly population is lower overall muscle strength, lending itself to more frequent fatigue, weakness and a higher risk of falls. Falls can contribute substantially to poor health outcomes in elderly individuals, including the occurrence of fractures, more time spent in a hospital, as well as lowering overall mobility and independence.[1] Most recommendations for senior-proofing the house are in line with these observations and attempt to minimize this risk.[2]

Factors that may contribute towards the risk of falls and other accidents include:

  • Reduced Visual Aptitude, specifically pertaining to a lower ability to detect light and dark contrast differences. This makes for lower night vision and may also affect other perceptual abilities, such as reading, depth perception, object detection or seeing where to walk.
  • Lower Mobility and Range of Motion. Stiffer joints, less muscle mass and a lower level of physical activity can all result in difficulties with navigating stairs, bending down, kneeling, reaching up, and tasks involving fine motor control.
  • Temperature Sensitivity. Body regulation of temperature is also known to dial down with age, which can leave some elderly individuals more sensitive to temperature changes. In most cases, this is especially true of cold sensitivity. Increased cold sensitivity can contribute towards stiffer joints and a higher degree of accidents during colder weather. Some older adults may not register temperature well, which can also affect judgment quality and lead to other injuries.
  • Hearing Loss. Hearing reductions may impact the elderly person’s ability to hear alarms, the doorbell or other important signals in the environment that may be required for their overall safety and quality of life.

Adapting the household environment to overcome these challenges can greatly aid in improving life for the aged individual.

Senior proofing the home:Useful fittings,optimal placement of household objects & items,use ramps/railings,anti-slip flooring

Ways to Senior Proof the Home

While every person, home and living requirements are unique, the following tips may be useful for optimizing life for the elderly individual.[3]

Contrast Enhancement. Due to vision deficits, it is often useful to brighten up the home of an elderly individual through contrast enhancement. More lighting and color contrast are both useful tools for senior-proofing the home. Some pertinent recommendations include:

  • Stairs. If the house has stairs (which perhaps ought to be minimized for ease), it can be helpful to brighten up their color with something unavoidable to the eye. This can serve as a “mind the step or gap” sign and may reduce the risk of falls.
  • Dangerous Objects. It is important to identify objects in the elderly person’s environment that may be dangerous if not seen and then find ways to make them highly visible. One may want to purchase kitchen utensils, scissors and other sharp objects in a brighter color that contrasts surfaces they are commonly used upon, such as countertops, tables or the floor itself. This also applies to objects that the elderly may trip over if not well-defined, such as the toilet bowl, stools, bins and baskets.
  • Label Enlargement. Labeling items that the elderly individual needs to easily identify in large, visible writing can help to minimize frustration and mistakes as well as save time. This is especially helpful for medications and any other objects that require labels for use.
  • Lighting. Dim lighting can greatly promote falls and other accidents. Poorly lit areas need to be tended to in the house with better lighting. Night lights or easy access to light switches in the dark are critical in case the individual needs to get up during the night. During power outages, battery-operated emergency lights, or better yet, a backup power supply that can service the lights in the home can further help.

Useful Fittings. Installing these fittings can help to take the strain out of everyday tasks and make life more comfortable, especially for seniors who battle with body aches and pains.

  • Light Switches. Replace any ordinary light switches with larger ‘rocker’ type light switches to improve their usability and visibility.
  • Door Handles. There is a big difference between a lever and a doorknob for a person who has stiff hands. It is a good idea to replace doorknobs with levers where possible. Try to remove doors that are unnecessary and opt for archways or sliding doors that require less grip.
  • Loose, Shatter-Proof Windows. All windows ought to be easy to open and close, without requiring a great deal of strength. Shatter-proof windows are preferable, especially for the aged individual who may accidentally leave them open and vulnerable to slamming shut in the wind.
  • Ventilation. A lack of ventilation may promote dizziness in those with respiratory ailments. Air vents can improve air quality in the bathroom and kitchen areas where higher concentrations of steam collect.
  • Ramps and Rails. Rails ought to be installed for stairwells and may be useful near the bed, toilet and bathtub as well. If movement is extremely difficult, one may want to opt for a single-storeyed house and replace steps with ramps where possible. Unless the individual is heavily wheelchair-bound, rails should be installed near ramps, despite the increased ease ramps provide. For multi-storeyed houses, there are a host of mobility solutions available to make life easier for the elderly. One of them is a stairlift that can be installed on the stair rails, aiding easy access between different floors. Over the years, stairlift technology has undergone transformative changes, with the latest ones being very compact. Stairlifts can be of multiple types, such as straight stairway elevators, curved staircase lifts, inclined platform lifts, and others.
  • Handheld Shower/Bath Extensions. Shower or bath head extensions may be easier to use during washing than fixed shower heads and bathtubs. As some may battle with holding an extension, the usefulness of this suggestion depends on the specific needs of the person in question. Also, the bathroom fixtures should be placed at a level which is within reach but not too low. This is to ensure the people do not hit their head on the bathroom fittings, in case they accidentally fall in the shower.
  • Doorbells, Intercoms and Phones. If the elderly person is required to rely on sounds from the doorbell or intercom yet is unable to hear it, it may be worthwhile installing an intercom device in every room they fail to hear the sound from. Alternatively, if they can operate a cell phone, they may prefer to opt for one with a louder volume setting and ‘vibrate’ mode set on, as well as a larger keypad and text that allows visitors to contact them when outside.
  • Visual Alarm Cues. If the person is hard of hearing, it may be worth investigating ways to change audible cues into bright visual ones instead. In this way, opting for electronic devices that signal task completion visually can help. This extends to ovens, dishwashers, laundry machines, smoke detectors and more.

Helpful Placements. The placement of everyday objects can greatly improve life quality for older individuals. Examples that can help prevent accidents include:

  • Height of Everyday Objects. Changing the level of everyday objects to minimize bending and difficulty with sitting and standing is a great way to reduce the risk of falls. It may be worth making sure plug points and appliances are convenient to reach on table or counter tops. The height of furniture, such as chairs and the bed, should also be high enough to optimize sitting and standing without causing strain, dizziness or fatigue.
  • Functional Proximity. The closeness of appliances and other objects that are frequently used together is a good point to consider. Inherent danger can be reduced by moving them closer together. This also helps to streamline daily activities. Moving the fridge closer to the workspace of the kitchen is one example.
  • Chairs. If prone to exhaustion easily, it may be a good idea to place chairs around the house that are height-appropriate and easy to sit in and rise from. The kitchen and shower are perhaps two locations where this may be beneficial.
  • Reducing Clutter. Try to think in terms of freeing up as much space as possible to prevent falling over household items. It is also helpful to reduce various items that require to be lifted daily, such as containers.

Adequate Insulation. Temperature control in the house can only be achieved through optimal insulation. If there are any cracks in the walls, ceilings or floors, as well as any leakages or other similar problems, they ought to be tended to in order to prevent drastic temperature fluctuations. Large windows on the sunny side of the house that allow in more light can increase sun exposure, promote a better mood and make for a warmer environment. Heating and cooling devices ought to be installed that make use of a simple remote controller.

Avoiding transitions between floorings and installing anti-slip flooring. When different types of flooring are installed in the same living space, the difference in the height of the products necessitates the use of transition strips on the floor. However, floor transition strips pose a serious health and safety concern for seniors, increasing the chances of tripping and falling. Also, transitions between flooring make it difficult to navigate wheelchairs. Hence, it is recommended to avoid floor transitions as much as possible.

To ensure that floors are easy to walk over without slippage, it is advisable to get non-slip tiles and to make sure carpeting is firmly secured in place. It can also be a good idea to correct any uneven flooring, especially if it is not easily detectable. If the floor is uneven in corners or near walls, placing an item of furniture over this section and ensuring the furniture is level may be a cheaper alternative to getting the floor redone.

Employing Extra Assistance. Despite their value, many elderly individuals will battle with simple tasks such as washing, dressing and shopping. Thus, hiring a cleaning assistant who can also double up as a carer is a prime requirement in these situations.

Conclusion

Senior proofing the home is important for minimizing the risk of falls, other injuries and improving the quality of life for the elderly. While the above discussion provides several examples that may be useful, it is more important to identify the factors affecting the individual in question so that their primary living needs can be met adequately.

To search for the best Geriatrics Doctors and Geriatrics healthcare providers worldwide, please use the Mya Care search engine.

Sources:

  • [1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4270052/
  • [2] https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-019-1189-9
  • [3] https://dengarden.com/safety/Home-Design-Ideas-for-Our-Old-Age

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