A senior citizen reads the newspaper in their kitchen.

It is widely understood that as you get older, you need to become more mindful about your health and how you can implement healthy therapy practices into everyday life. However, you should also start thinking about how viable your housing situation is. This is especially true of individuals who have existing health conditions, require limited assistance from others, or whose homes are not compatible with helpful technology and upgrades. It is better to begin helpful adjustments before you need them rather than after.

General Design

There are some modifications that can be helpful throughout a senior citizen’s home. These modifications include:

  • Supplementary lighting: People with weakening eyesight can strongly benefit from additional light sources in their homes. It is also beneficial to switch to cooler lighting such as halogen bulbs to account for the yellowing lenses of aging eyes.
  • Accessible switches, knobs, etc.: Standard switches, knobs, etc. may be more difficult to reach and manipulate for some seniors. It may be helpful to place these lower/closer and replace them with something easier to manipulate, such as touch-based panels.
  • Widened doorways: Standard doorways may be difficult or impossible to pass through with a walker or wheelchair.
  • Accessible doors: Doors that swing out may block hallways and create difficulty for people with wheelchairs or walkers. It will often be helpful to replace them with an alternative such as a pocket door.
  • Handrails: Handrails in strategic positions, such as the entryway, can help seniors maintain their balance and prevent falls.
  • Easily accessible shelves: Shelves and cabinets should be placed lower in rooms and replaced with pull-out shelves wherever possible.
  • Motion sensors and voice-command technology: Motion sensors or voice-command technology for doors, lights, etc. can further help reduce the need for seniors to have to stretch or struggle to manipulate objects in their house.
  • Smart technology: Smart technology updates can help seniors start, monitor, or manage many appliances and safety mechanisms in their house with minimal effort.
  • Flooring alterations: Textured flooring with few transitions between rooms can prevent falls.

Bathroom Design

Modifications that are often helpful in the bathrooms of senior citizens include:

  • Reinforced walls: Bathrooms, in particular, should ideally have many grab bars, and therefore it is important to reinforce the walls in these areas to better support a person’s weight.
  • Additional grab bars: Grab bars near the toilet, sink, bath/shower, etc. will improve the safety of seniors as they navigate their bathroom.
  • Slip-resistant appliances: Bathrooms are often a huge slip hazard, and condensation may make things difficult to grab.
  • Walk-in showers or baths: Walk-in showers and baths can negate the need for seniors to get themselves over a lip, which can be dangerous.
  • Handheld showerheads: Handheld showerheads can empower seniors to clean themselves without the need to move their bodies around very much.
  • Shower seat: Shower seats can reduce the risk of seniors slipping in the shower.
  • Raised toilet seat: Raised toilet seats can help seniors by reducing how far they need to lower themselves to reach the toilet.

It may even be helpful to fully convert the bathroom into a wet room.

Bedroom Design

Modifications that are often helpful in the bedrooms of senior citizens include:

  • Firm, low-profile beds: Low-profile beds can reduce how far seniors will fall if they fall out of bed, while firmness will be better for their back and make it easier to leave the bed.
  • Bed rails: Bed rails are important to help seniors lower themselves into their beds.
  • Telephone access: For safety reasons, it is important that seniors can call for help if necessary without needing to walk through their entire house.
  • Nightlights: Nightlights can be helpful to assist seniors in navigating their bedrooms.

It is also a good idea to ensure that the bedroom is in a very easily accessible location on the ground floor.

Kitchen Design

Modifications that are often helpful in the kitchens of senior citizens include:

  • Low countertops: High countertops can be a nuisance or even a safety hazard for people with limited mobility, especially those in wheelchairs.
  • Pull-out pantries: This room is perhaps the most important to feature low, pull-out shelves, as reaching for food on higher shelves could be dangerous.
  • Easily accessible appliance controls: Easily accessible appliance controls such as low, front-facing panels can make cooking a much more feasible option for seniors with limited mobility.
  • Lighting underneath cabinets: Lighting underneath cabinets can help seniors with diminishing eyesight find the items they need.
  • Round-edge countertops: Countertops with rounded edges can prevent injuries.

Laundry Room Design

Modifications that are often helpful in the laundry rooms of senior citizens include:

  • Front-load washer and dryer: Top-load washers and dryers can be incredibly difficult to use for seniors, even if they are not in a wheelchair.
  • Washer and dryer risers: Risers can be used to adjust the height of washers and dryers to accommodate the unique needs of the individual.
  • Laundry chute: A laundry chute can eliminate the need to lift, twist, etc. to place laundry into the washer.

Additional Tips

A few other things you can do to improve your experience (or the experience of a loved one) aging-in-place, include:

  • Moving downstairs if you have a multi-level home: Stairways can be incredibly difficult and dangerous to navigate for seniors, and therefore it may be best to move the majority of important rooms to the ground level.
  • Utilizing a low-maintenance design: It is best to make updates as simple to use as possible, as even well-intentioned changes can be prohibitive if they are unreliable or difficult to use.
  • Accommodating for exercise: It is very important for seniors to continue getting exercise, especially considering that many accommodation measures involve limiting the need for movement. It may be a good idea to leave an open area where they can exercise. As an additional safety precaution, it will also be advisable to hire or seek out certification as an occupational therapist, occupational therapy assistant, or physical therapist. Such professionals are very valuable in terms of ensuring that the senior citizen is moving through their exercise routine safely.

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