There’s no place like home.” It’s been 80 years since moviegoers first heard Dorothy deliver that classic line in “The Wizard of Oz.” A lot has changed since then, but not seniors’ belief in her heartfelt words. Nearly 9 in 10 people 65 and older would prefer staying in their current home as they get older, a way of life called aging in place. But doing so requires planning. After all, your parents could end up living in an unsafe environment if their home isn’t set up to help them transition into their later years.
Get a Grip
Has arthritis left them without the ability to get a tight grip to twist doorknobs? Here’s a simple fix. Change out old round knobs with lever-style handles. Slightly push the outer edge with your fingertips, hand, or even your elbow and like magic, the door is ready to open. You’ll find lots of styles at your local home-improvement store. If your parents just can’t part with their current doorknobs, go online and search for “doorknob gripper.” Slip it right over the existing hardware to get the traction needed to turn the knob.
Is the entrance to their home uneven? Thresholds — those strips of wood or metal that run across the base of an entry door frame — can easily cause stumbles. Consider removing the threshold and attaching a retractible bottom at the foot of the door. It will automatically seal any space between the floor and missing threshold each time the door is closed, keeping cold and hot air from entering the house. Or they can keep the threshold and add a portable ramp. Depending on the size, you can find ramps for less than $100.
Give Falls the Slip
Slick surfaces make for unsteady walking. Bathrooms are especially dangerous, with lots of hard surfaces in a small space. One cost-effective way to make this room safer is to install grab bars in the shower and tub to make getting in and out easier. A hand-held shower head, combined with a shower seat, also make bathing easier. Consider mounting a grab bar by their toilets. It will give them extra support when sitting down or standing up — times when blood pressure is more likely to drop and cause dizziness.
Shine a Light
Do you fear your parents will stumble in the dark? Seeing clearly is a priority when it comes to avoiding obstacles. Encourage your parents to install battery-powered lights that use motion sensor technology. They may also need similar lights for the walkway leading to their home. Another senior-friendly option is a touch-activated lamps on their nightstands. No need for them to feel around in the darkness for a pull chain or tiny knob.
It’s often the little things that count. That’s certainly the case when it comes to independent senior living. Just a few simple, inexpensive changes can go a long way toward improving the quality of their lives. And the good part is they don’t have to tackle several DIY projects at once. Home safety is not an all-or-nothing situation. You can all chip in and do little at a time.