—-A special submission by Kent Elliot—-
Aging in place may seem like a simple matter but for many seniors, even those who can care for themselves, there are many dangers that can be easily overlooked. Diminished muscle strength and flexibility or poor eyesight can leave an older adult vulnerable to accidents, especially if their home hasn’t been adequately prepared.
For example, you may not see a loose electrical cord in a darkened room or you could miss the last step going up the stairs. Aging in place is a blessing, but it requires vigilance, planning and attention to detail.
Clear Out the Clutter
If, like many people, you have more stuff lying around than you need, it’s probably time to declutter. Clutter is a serious threat to an older adult’s ability to move around the house safely. It’s also a proven source of stress, so the sooner you clear out the clutter, the better. Work from room by room and take the time to do it right — there’s no need to rush and overlook something. Handle each object and consider everything carefully. Is it something you’ve used or needed within the past six months? If not, set it aside to be recycled or donated. Decluttering will keep obstructions and potential tripping hazards out of your path, reducing the likelihood of a fall, the leading cause of injury among seniors according to the National Council on Aging.
Brighten Up the Place
Well-lit rooms are another important factor in keeping your home safe, particularly if your eyesight isn’t what it once was. Make sure plenty of natural light gets through (remove heavy drapes or blinds from windows), and use light-colored paint, especially in rooms, hallways, and stairways that get a lot of use. Abundant light makes it easier to move around and identify objects you need (avoid using light bulbs that give off a glare). If getting to the bathroom at night is a problem, consider having motion-activated lights installed in the halls and bathroom so you don’t have to fumble around for a light switch in the dark.
It’s important to maintain strength in your legs and lower body to avoid imbalance, stay mobile and avoid falls. Exercise is an important lifestyle factor for any senior who wants to age in place. Not only does it keep you limber, but it can also fend off depression and anxiety, which are common problems for seniors who are isolated from friends and family.
Walking the dog is a good way to stay physically active or you could begin with some simple exercises such as toe lifts or wall push-ups, which can be done anywhere in your home whenever you want (always discuss exercises and exercise programs with your primary care physician). If you’re a Medicare beneficiary, you could be eligible for membership in the SilverSneakers fitness program. Many Medicare Advantage plans offer this benefit, so consider switching to a program that offers a SilverSneakers membership during the enrollment period.
There are plenty of physical adaptations that can keep you safe at home. Some are simple, such as placing non-slip material in the bathtub and on the bathroom floor while others are more involved and expensive, such as widening halls and doorways to improve access. So, take advantage of easy safety upgrades like adding handrails in the hall, stairways and in the bathroom (especially in the shower and next to the toilet).
Home modifications should be made with careful consideration for your long-term needs. Sweeping clutter under the couch and ignoring the dangers of a poorly lit living space are risky and will only increase your chances of suffering an accident. A clean, well-ordered and thoughtfully adapted home should be your ongoing goal.
Image courtesy of Pexels
For additional resources for aging in home, visit athomeaging.info.