9 Tips for Making Your Home Accessible to Elderly Individuals

America is aging. Baby boomers (those born between mid-1946 and mid-1964) are becoming an increasingly large portion of the US population. In 2014, there were (including immigrants who flock to our shoes) 76.4 million such individuals. By 2029 (the year all baby boomers will be 65 or over), more than 1/5 of those living in America will be in this age group.

As baby boomers enter their golden years, many discover that alterations on the home front are necessary to accommodate their changing abilities. Some basic modifications can ensure a safe, accessible, pleasant living experience. These nine tips will turn one’s castle into an attractive, elder-friendly domicile.

Put a Handle On It

Turning a doorknob is easy for most people. However, golden agers—who are likely to have arthritis, hand tremors, or a weak grip—may find this act difficult and uncomfortable. Levers are a better choice. Such handles are preferable for faucets as well.

Skip the Steps

Climbing steps can be a formidable task—and an impossible one for a person in a wheelchair. A level or gently sloping path to the front door makes life easier. If there is a steep incline from sidewalk to entrance, a ramp may be the way to go.

Lighten Up

A well-lit home is essential for avoiding mishaps. Stairways, the front door, outdoor walkways, porches or patios, kitchens, and bathrooms are spots where sufficient lighting (either natural or electric) is vital.

Create Space

Wider doorways (at least 32”) and hallways make maneuvering easier for wheelchair users. In addition, bathroom and kitchen sinks and counters with knee space and at a comfortable height are essential. Spacious closets add to the elder-friendliness of the home.

Avoid Slips and Falls

Throw rugs may be attractive, but they are a hazard. Either lose them or use nonskid mats underneath. Non-slip flooring like linoleum, vinyl tiles, textured wood, and tightly woven carpets are the materials of choice. Thresholds are another no-no: they are a major tripping hazard.

Get a Grip

Grab bars in the bathroom are a must. And one stair rail is not enough; each side of the stairway should sport one. (Remember to add them to ramps and inclined walkways.)

Make Fixtures and Appliances Accessible

Hand-held shower heads, one-handle faucets, raised toilets, and rocker light switches are easier to use. And wall stoves, microwaves, dishwashers, washing machines, and driers mounted at an easy-to-reach height make cooking and laundry easy as pie.

Raise the Garden

Elders with a green thumb need not give up the pleasures of gardening because of uncooperative joints. Raised gardens make growing flowers and vegetables a breeze.

Go High-Tech

Remote-control appliances and lights, intercoms, programmable apparatuses, and security devices all add to the safety and comfort of the home environment.

With a bit of planning and some modifications, golden agers can live securely and comfortably in their own homes. Whether these changes are made by families in existing residences or incorporated into new homes, they are essential features of every living space—and the way of the future.

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