We know that people are reluctant to face their own aging limitations. We also know that very often seniors are not willing to spend money to improve their own comfort in their homes. Taken together it’s quite a challenge to get an aging senior to make needed changes for safety and convenience.
Many who plan on aging in place are simply not interested in remodeling their homes no matter how much more comfortable they’d be. They would rather live with a barrier, or put together some temporary “fix”, than pay to solve the problem. I’ve lost count as to how many bathrooms I’ve walked into where a standard folding chair is balanced half in and half out of the bathtub, its purpose to aid someone no longer able to step into the tub to take a shower. Needless to say, a precariously balanced metal folding chair is not an appropriate (or safe) solution.
So if we’re to convince these seniors to make some changes for their own good, we need to start small, with modifications that can be accomplished quickly, without major disruption, and relatively inexpensively.
Let’s start with the bathroom since it’s the place in the home where most falls occur.
1. Add a seat to the shower or tub
2. Replace a stationary shower head with a hand held one
3. Create non-slip tiles throughout bathroom and shower/tub by applying non-skid
coatings readily available in tile stores
4. Install higher watt bulbs in fixtures to improve vision
5. Add grab bars to shower, tub, and toilet areas; colored grab bars are available if
needed to increase visibility
6. Remove scatter rugs
7. Remove glass shower doors and replace with screw mount shower rod and shower
8. Replace door knob and faucet knobs with levered handles
9. Replace door hinges with swing away hinges to increase doorway width
10. Replace standard toilet with comfort height one making it easier to rise without loss of
Next is the kitchen where the goal is to eliminate stretching and bending as much as possible.
1. Lower upper cabinet shelves where possible. Place dishes and often used items on an
easily reachable shelf
2. Replace cabinet doorknobs with latches that open to the touch
3. Increase lighting above the sink, stove and work areas
4. Make sure there is a heat resistant surface adjacent to stove, oven and microwave to
place hot pots and dishes
5. Adjust refrigerator shelves so the lighter foods are placed on top, heavier ones at
6. Install single lever faucet at kitchen sink
7 . Coat ceramic floor tiles with non-skid coatings
8. Remove or tape down throw rugs
9. Place microwave on counter for easy access
10. Install pull out drawers and pop up shelves in bottom cabinets for heavier appliances,
11. Make sure all appliances are working properly and controls are easy to read and/or
12. Store food in closed plastic containers for ease of selecting and carrying
Other areas of the house.
1. Install low profile thresholds or “ramps” wherever threshold exceeds ½”
2. Install railings at any step, on both sides of stairs, and along hallways
3. Increase stair lighting
4. Install non-skid stair treads, especially to exterior stairs
What I’ve found with my own clients is that getting someone to accept the need to modify their home is a process that moves from denial, to reluctant acceptance, to reliance on the improvement. Once we’re able to convince a senior that the modification is necessary, they ultimately come to realize how it benefits their life. It’s a struggle, but it’s worth it.