You Can Stay Home: Tips for Supporting Aging in Place

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Tools that assist our elderly parents make aging in place an easier option for the Sandwich Generation familyMichelle Seitzer, a favorite writer here at SandwichINK, has prepared a new guest post for us that is excellent, addressing several of the aging in place issues my own Sandwich Generation family has dealt with over the years, and I bet yours has also! 

Tips for Supporting Aging in Place

by Michelle Seitzer for 101Mobility.com 

Granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, shiny wood floors, custom tiling, new roof: these are among the items frequently found on the modern home buyer’s checklist. 

The Sandwich Generation granny nanny loves pink things like thise folding lightweight travel transport wheelchairs

Decades ago, when the myriad of seniors currently aging in place (AIP) were house-hunting, it’s unlikely that wide doorways, hand/chair rails, expanded hallways, interior/exterior wheelchair ramps, and streamlined one-level living quarters were on their checklists. But that’s what they need now, and that’s what their adult children, many of whom are boomers planning for their own present and future care needs, are struggling to provide. 

Unaware of the options and frustrated by the seeming impossibility of taking the 19th century farmhouse and making it “senior-friendly” (or just trying to keep up with maintenance), adult children often throw their hands up in defeat, encouraging Mom or Dad to ditch the aging abode in favor of something that’s easier to maintain, and safer for maneuvering. But moving out of a home after a lifetime of living within its walls is no easy task, especially for seniors who have paid off the mortgage years ago. The idea of moving elsewhere, especially in this economy, is unnerving and impractical.  

Thankfully, there are solutions.

Enter universal design, an emerging movement that is changing the way homes on the present and future market look as we face the graying of America. Essentially, universal design considers the needs of everyone in the home – and for the long haul – instead of building and remodeling based on a perpetually young, unencumbered, and mobile tenant. 

Industry experts are watching this trend in design and remodeling unfold. In this MSN.com article, The National Association of Home Builders said that 75% of remodelers reported getting more requests for AIP projects from customers ages 45 and up. Of those requests, 75% were planning for future needs, and 53% were living with aging parents. 

Whether you renovate an entire floor of your home, build an addition (i.e. the mother-in-law suite) or complete several home modifications in stages, it is possible to age in place without moving out. 

Colorful magazine organizers including these pink and blue things are a big help to the crowded Sandwich Generation

1. Simplify, simplify, simplify: Decluttering, streamlining, and organizing the home is one of the easiest (and most affordable) means for adapting the home. Those boxes of old National Geographic magazines, that dining room table piled with paperwork and bills, the closet that’s inaccessible because it’s full of old clothes and holiday decorations, and overstuffed shelves, drawers & cabinets are not only unattractive, they’re a fall risk, a hazard, an obstacle to efficiency. It doesn’t have to be spring to do some much need clearing, condensing, and consolidating. And should you or a loved one eventually require a transition to a care facility, the work of downsizing from a multi-bedroom home to a room/apartment will be easier.

2. Ramp it up: Installing wheelchair ramps at the home’s most-used exits/entrances enhances independence and prevents home “imprisonment”. Additionally, stair lifts allow access to a 2nd floor bathroom or bedroom. Learn more about different styles and models of ramps, as well as the installation process, here. 

3. Let there be light: Lighting can make a significant difference when it comes to preventing falls and easing mobility in the home. On one hand, certain lighting fixtures (like floor lamps, for example) can be dangerous if they have long wires that are exposed/in the walking (tripping) path of the homeowner. Installing additional lights (or windows to let in more natural light) in high-traffic areas and frequently-used rooms makes the home safer – and more attractive.

Caring for elderly parents - pink things like these canes are an encouragement for them

4. Watch where you step: You walk all over it every day but probably don’t give it much thought until your balance or gait is compromised. Flooring in all rooms of the house can easily present a fall risk, as can rugs that are bulky, shift around easily, or have corners that catch on walkers, canes or wheelchairs. For optimal mobility, hard flooring is best.

5. Keep things dry in the water closet: In the bathroom, where the majority of fall-related injuries occur, it’s essential to implement non-skid surfaces. Make sure all surfaces (counters, tubs/shower floors, etc.) stay dry. For examples of bath safety improvements and products, click here.

6. Lend a hand: Chair rails in hallways, grab bars in the bathroom, and other touch points for safe and supported maneuvering can dramatically reduce the risk of falls and promote independence within the home.

An added bonus? After home modifications have been made to accommodate an aging resident, these features, if done well, can certainly be highlighted as a selling point for future homebuyers (i.e. those young adults who are already thinking about taking care of Mom, Grandpa, or another senior relative). Invest wisely; prepare your home now.

Committed to helping people retain their independence and freedom, 101 Mobility is the nation’s leading sales, service and installation provider of a complete line of mobility and accessibility products and equipment that may be customized to suit each individuals’ home care needs. Find out more about 101 Mobility and all their mobility solutions via www.101mobility.com or call 877.350.2755. 

Wasn't that a great article full of excellent and practical suggestions? Many thanks to Michelle Seitzer for another excellent resource for all of us in the Sandwich Generation!

P.S. Happy Pink Saturday. :). 

Comments 6

  • WOW–you are speaking to me today. My Mom is living with us for a few months after a bad fall fracturing her shoulder and jaw. We have declutterd everything–she is mastering her cane too. We have taken the area rugs out of the pathways. What an eye opener this has been for us.
    Hope you have a splendid Thanksgiving

  • That is excellent advice. Most homes today are not built for senior equipment. I had a friend with a very nice home, had to tare out a lot to make it handicap workable.

  • Great article – you know, we really don’t think of these things when we’re ten feet tall and bullet proof (or think we are). Thanks! Jenn

  • You are invited to a Birthday Party at my blog, From the Heart at htttp://fromtheheartae.blogspot.com for our special friend, Denise (shortybear) on Sunday, November 20th, hosted by AliceE and Peggy at Amazing Grace. There is a place to click on to go to Denise’s blog and wish her a Happy Birthday. If you would leave a comment on my blog letting me know you are participating, I would appreciate it. I know this will please Denise and hopefully lift her spirits.

  • What a fun birthday blog party idea, Alice – I would love to attend – see you there 🙂

  • Manual wheelchairs are driven by the human strength, while the electric wheelchairs are driven by the electric motors. Due to the physical effort required to move and successfully use a manual model, the physical condition of the wheelchair user is often one of the most important concerns when choosing between an electric wheelchair and a manual chair.

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