Aging Well Partners
- Mar 03
- 6 min
Aging In Place – The Right Plan Can Make All the Difference
While the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in the majority of Americans “aging in place”, that’s not exactly what the term “aging in place” refers to. For this article, we will be talking about aging in place with regard to the older adult population – those 65 and older – and their desire to stay in their homes and surrounding communities as they age.
First some statistics. According to 2020 census data, the United States population sits at 331,449,281; of that, 54.1 million are aged 65 years or older with 30 million being women and 24.1 million being men. Of that 54.1 million age 65 or older, nearly 80% own their home; these homes, however, are typically older homes and may need substantial work for continued safety while aging in place.
So how can the aging population age in place and do so with safety as a top priority? There are some simple fixes, some in-depth modification, and in some cases, full remodels to accomplish the goal of aging in place.
A home assessment is a great place to start. These can be done by people that have the credential of Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), a Senior Home Safety Specialist (SHSS) or by a Home Health physical or occupational therapist. Typically, Home Health will do a home assessment once a person has been discharged from the hospital or Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) after and accident or injury…exactly what we are trying to avoid.
The home assessment considers all indoor living spaces and outdoor areas that may need attention. The final report from a home assessment should point out areas of concern that need immediate attention, those areas that will need attention very soon, and some suggestions for additional things that can be done around the house to ensure safety and security of its occupants.
Once the home assessment is completed, you may want to ease your way into some simple fixes that won’t cost too much money nor require a lot of manual labor. Here is a list of some of the simple fixes that can be done around your home:
- Remove throw rugs
- Use rubber-backed bathmats
- Move laundry to 1st floor
- Remove wheels on chairs
- Put nonskid treads on stairs
- Keep steps and stairs clear
- Apply nonslip wax to floors
- Repair loose carpeting
- Remove small and low furniture
- Clear electrical cords and clutter
- Add hallway railing
- Switch out standard doorknobs for lever handles
- Install a raised toilet seat and grab bars
- Remove locks from bedroom and bathroom doors – for quick entry in case of falls
- Swap out a recliner for a chair lift
- If wandering is a concern, install sensor alarms and monitoring devices
As we age, it takes increasing amounts of light to see things as clearly as we did when we were younger. According to AARP, “the chances of falling in dim lighting is two to four times greater” so let’s talk about some lighting fixes inside the home.
Table lamps are a good way to increase the lighting in most rooms. Be sure the lamp is large enough to put out decent light and that the lamp shade is not so dark that light won’t shine through. If you like to read in bed, work on the computer, or craft at the kitchen table, adjustable reading lamps or craft/task specific lamps are the way to go. These lamps have a flexible “neck” and can be adjusted to spotlight certain areas, so your eyes don’t have to do the extra work. Floor lamps are another option for additional lighting in a room. Some homes and apartment lack ceiling lights all together; floor lamps become the sole source of light in this case. I recently found a floor lamp with a flexible “neck” so I could point it upwards to light the room and adjust it downward when I want to read. With table, work, and floor lamps, be aware of where your outlets are located. You don’t want to improve the lighting in the house only to create tripping hazards with lamp cords. If you must run a cord across a heavy traffic area of the home, use cord protectors to reduce the chances of tripping.
With all lighting options, choosing the right bulb is key. If you are an older adult reading this, we used to pick out bulbs based on wattage, the standard being the 60-watt bulb. With the push towards being energy efficient, watts have been replaced with lumens – both are ways of telling the consumer how bright the bulb will shine. Some people are sensitive to certain types of bulbs and the lighting they give off, so you’ll want to be conscientious of that as you browse the bulb aisle at your local hardware store. Full spectrum bulbs are very commonly purchased because they increase “contrast and clarity and reduces glare” according to AARP.
Finally, on the topic of lighting, if you do not have night lights, please order some or go buy some today. Night lights are a must-have as we grow older. With age, we have become wiser and realize the dark isn’t always our ally. A well-placed night light in the bedroom, bathroom, or hallway could be key to avoiding the “F” word….Falls.
Another thing we may encounter as we get older is our ability to perceive certain colors. This is due to changes in the clear lenses in our eyes. They start clear but may begin to discolor with age, thus impairing our ability to perceive these colors and contrast of colors in general.
Take a closer look at the paint on your walls and ceilings along with the colors of your flooring and see if there are places where a higher contrast in color could help you or an aging loved one. I once lived in a home with hardwood floors, which was great except there was one step down into the living room. Without contrast on the step, I couldn’t distinguish one level from the other and jolted my back more than once. I didn’t do anything about until I watched my mother miss the step and almost fall forward into an unforgiving hardwood floor. I marched into the garage, got my painter’s tape, and taped that step to create contrast we could all see. Lesson learned.
Home Modifications & Remodels
AARP conducted a survey in December 2021 of 2,826 adults (18+) regarding how and where people want to age. Here are some of their findings:
A third of all poll participants said they would need to modify their current residence so they or a loved one could continue to live there if they had physical limitations.
- 79 percent said they would need to modify bathrooms with grab bars or no-step
- 71 percent said their home has inside and outside accessibility issues.
- 61 percent said they would need an emergency response system.
- 48 percent said they would need smart-home devices, like a voice activated home assistant or a doorbell camera.
Home modifications may include widening of doorways and hallways to accommodate a wheelchair, modifications to the bathroom for accessibility and zero threshold entry ways to eliminate a tripping hazard. Ramps can be added or built in and around the home for ease of access for those physically impaired and stair lifts installed to aid those with mobility challenges in going up and down stairs. Some home modifications may require a licensed contractor while others, such as ramps and changing bathroom hardware, may require a handyperson or some YouTube videos (for the do-it-yourself-ers). There are companies who specialize in home remodels and modifications for the aging adult, if you are looking to make some changes to your home.
Successful aging in place requires some additional consideration. Things like transportation, physical fitness, proper nutrition, and the need for socialization should be part of the discussion when looking to age in place. If you no longer feel that driving is the safe way to go, is there reliable transportation you can access (this doesn’t include calling a neighbor or family member to drive you places)? Do you have a plan to start of maintain some level of physical fitness? Use it or lose it, right? How do you plan to get or maintain a healthy way of eating when you don’t feel like cooking (again, this doesn’t include family or neighbors supplying you regular meals)? And last but certainly not least, how do you plan to maintain some level of social interaction? We have seen far too many aging adults suffer the mental and physical consequences of social isolation during the pandemic so having a plan is vital to your health and well-being.
Aging in place safely can be accomplished with the right people and planning. Create a plan, make a list, and engage the right people to help you put that plan into motion today. If you want help finding the right people to work with, please call us at Aging Well Partners. We only work with and refer to vetted and trusted businesses partners to ensure peace of mind for you.
Plan well to age well. You’ll be glad you did!
Kie Copenhaver is a Certified Senior Advisor™ (CSA™), Gerontologist, and co-founder of Aging Well Partners. Kie has worked over 25 years in the healthcare and aging industries, advocating for patient’s rights and the ability to choose what’s best for them. She has taught at Mesa Community College in the Health Information Technology department and currently gives talks at Oasis Lifelong Learning geared towards planning ahead and aging well. When Kie isn’t working, you can find her doing yardwork and digging in her flower beds. Find Kie at www.agingwellpartners.com