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We want our family and friends to be comfortable, but we don’t all have the same physical needs. The effects of age and compromised mobility come with special requirements that the average home doesn’t meet, and that poses discomfort and sometimes even risk. Aging often comes with a loss of bone density, and this is a huge deal considering that seniors have a 1 in 3 chance of falling. A slip can lead to painful sprains, bone breaks, and devastating hip fractures that are very hard to recover from when dealing with age and other challenging ailments, so some simple updates are a wonderful idea. A little attention to your home’s safety and ease-of-access could make all the difference to you and the ones you care about.
Swapping out those knobs and pulls is an easy accommodation that tense or arthritic hands can appreciate. Knobs require clutching which can be hard on muscles and joints, so consider replacing them with D-shaped pulls. Cabinets themselves can also be updated to reduce physical strain in the kitchen. Installing roll-out drawers in cupboards beneath the counter will enable easy access for people of all ages. There are various compartments and baskets that can be included for bonus organization and accessibility too.
Regardless of age, plenty of ambient lighting will benefit everyone’s eyes and overall comfort. Ideally light switches would be no higher than 48” from the floor, but at the very least toggle light switches could be replaced with easy-to-use rocker switches that don’t require grasping to turn off and on. If wheelchair accommodations are needed, then keep lighting within an arm’s reach — about 42-48” from the ground. If taller lamps can’t be accessed through a light switch, they’re probably better off being replaced with smaller lamps that can be placed on a sturdy coffee table.
Spills and trips make soft, slip-resistant flooring a high priority. The best senior-friendly options are currently carpet, cork, linoleum, vinyl, and rubber flooring, but if new floors aren’t in the budget then some simple modifications can be made. High-barrier rugs and mats pose tripping hazards, so they should be secured to the floor with double-sided tape or removed altogether. Non-slip mats can be put down to help increase safety in areas vulnerable to water spills (ie. the shower and the dog’s water bowl), but they should be secured down and consist of a thinner material that poses less of a tripping hazard.
Slippery showers and wet floors make for a serious risk of falling, so this area needs special attention. The market is full of age and mobility friendly fixtures like walk-in tubs and low-barrier showers. These do require a remodeling budget however. If new and safer updates aren’t in the works just yet, then grab bars can be added for safety and assurance. Grab bars help ease the entry and exit while offering a sturdy stance on wet floors. And while they used to be unattractive additions to bathrooms everywhere, they’re available in chrome and brushed nickel to blend in with other bathroom fixtures. If you spend a little extra, you can get a multi-purpose grab bar that integrates a towel rack, toilet paper holder, or shelf into its design.
Ash Stevens is a writer and wannabe shaman on a mission to better herself. She loves exploring and analyzing all facts of life at the deepest level, and playing with new heights and possibilities. When she isn’t being serious writing or talking family and relationships on her blog, she’s surely listening to stand-up comedy or soaking up some sunshine playing with the kids. Find her on Twitter or Facebook and make a new friend!
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