As people have been spending an increasing amount of time in their dwellings, homeowners have been making updates to their homes regarding creating additional workspaces and areas to relax. Another concept that continues to gain popularity is making modifications to allow seniors to stay in their homes longer.
With that in mind, Callen designers Heather Brannan and Tom Lawler provided their thoughts on updates seniors can make to their home so they can continue to live independently.
Heather said there are an abundance of alterations that can be made to improve safety in a home. “If you desire to stay in your home throughout your retirement, I encourage you to discuss your options with a company that specializes in aging in place, such as Callen Construction,” she said. “Slips and falls happen often in unsafe homes and seniors who live independently are at an increased risk. For peace of mind, not only for yourself, but for your loved ones, safety accommodations are important.” According to Tom, “it is important to create safe spaces utilizing large walkways, lighting, grab bars, railings, and functional storage.”
When determining the kinds of modifications necessary to allow seniors to stay in their home, a good first step is to invite a designer that specializes in aging in place to the home to assess each room. “The designer can provide various options, give advice, and suggest modifications that will allow the dwellers to live safely for years to come in the home,” Heather said.
In considering specific areas of the home, Heather and Tom offered the following tips:
Kitchens: As they are used daily, kitchens are a priority area when seeking home safety. “Pull-out trays can be installed in lower cabinets to prevent bending and falling, while stoves and sinks should be installed within close proximity of each other so hot pots and pans can be easily exchanged,” Heather said. “In addition, microwaves should be installed at counter height or lower. Many microwaves are installed above stoves, but this is dangerous because hot food has to be lifted up overhead and over the potentially hot stovetop.”
Bathrooms: As slips and falls are most common in the bathroom, it’s important to know which fixtures and materials are recommended for high traffic, wet areas. Heather and Tom said bathing and showering can become safer with the installation of grab bars, shower seats, and walk-in tubs. Tom suggested that no slip surfaces be installed throughout the space, while Heather said comfort height toilets with grab bars nearby will help reduce the chance of falling.
Bedrooms: Having a low bed or a bed with handrails will provide ease and security when getting in and out. “Install a textured floor or carpet to avoid slipping or tripping on rugs,” Tom said. “In addition, make sure there are large walkways for wheelchairs or walkers.”
Living and Dining Room: Tom said to eliminate tripping hazards it is best to not lay down rugs or runners. Heather explained it’s always best to have a smooth transition between flooring types. She added if a plush flooring is desired, it’s best to install carpet throughout the space. “Other safe flooring options are real or engineered wood with a non-glossy finish, luxury vinyl tile or plank flooring with a textured finish, or natural stone tile with a tumbled finish.”
Closets: The installation of a closet organization system enhance safety in this space. “Standard closets consist of a closet pole with a shelf above. But it’s difficult to properly and safely store large or heavy items up high,” Heather said. “Items stored above your head can fall, causing harm. Having them securely tucked away, at a safe height, will reduce this risk.” Tom said, “In addition, install proper lighting to make viewing of closet items easier.”
Stairs: “As staircases are present in almost all homes, adding adequate lighting, securing proper handrails, and installing carpeting on the steps are all ways to reduce your fall risk,” Heather said.
Entryways: Heather and Tom encourage seniors to install a ramp and railing in place of steps. As steps outside the home are typically constructed of either cement or wood, falling is a concern. “Falling on a hard surface like cement can lead to broken bones and other serious injuries. Also, when it rains or snows, wood stairs become wet and slippery, which can also lead to falls,” she said.
Heather said another safety modification that often goes overlooked is the installation of a home security system. “Seniors, especially when living independently, can become a target for home invaders,” she said. “Installing a security system with alarms and warning signs, will likely deter trespassers from ever entering the home.”