Posted on Feb 19, 2014
To minimize fall risks from occurring at home, or to make changes to accommodate a senior loved one moving in, you may want to incorporate design features that accommodate all family members and different life stages. Many older adults, and baby boomers are incorporating home design concepts that give access to individuals with varying physical abilities. Older adults are considering modifications that can help them live more comfortably, and more securely as they age, regardless of who may be moving in or out.
Minimizing fall risks and providing a safe home environment should be the underlying focus for seniors wanting to age in place. For starters, consider making changes to hallways, doorways, kitchens, bathrooms, exits, and entry areas. The following are some changes to consider:
- Widen doorways to a minimum of 36 inches. Why? You may need to maneuver scooters, walkers, and wheelchairs. With wider doorways, you are bound to move in and out more efficiently. Moving furniture in and out is also easier on everyone, and less damage will be done to doorways and walls.
- Hallways should be at least 42 inches or more in width. You would not want a wheelchair to block the entire width of a hallway.
- Keep areas well lit. As we age, our vision diminishes, too. We need to lessen fall risks caused by poorly lit access and exit areas.
- If you want to refurbish your kitchen consider the space needed. Make sure a wheelchair and a walker can turn without hitting anything.
- Install some multi-level counters for workspace, where you can slide in a wheelchair, a comfortable seat or a stool. You may want to get off your feet while you are doing some food preparation.
- Lower wall cabinets so you don’t have to reach or climb on a chair or stepping stool. By lowering the top wall cabinets, you will minimize fall risks.
- Tile and concrete is hard on bones and joints, so consider a different type of flooring for the kitchen area.
- Install task lighting.
- Bathroom space should be wide enough to provide space for a wheelchair to maneuver and turn around without bumping into walls and doors.
- Make sure to install railings and bars in the tub, toilet, and shower areas. Don’t skimp on these accessories. They will benefit old and young.
- Again, bathroom entry areas and floor space should also offer enough room so a wheelchair can go through effortlessly.
- Install non-slip tile floors in the bathroom.
- Bathroom area should also be well lit.
- Shower areas can be redesigned to accommodate a wheelchair to roll in and out. Include a well-built folding bench or built-in seats. Make sure seating areas are deep enough to sit on, and easy to transfer to and from a wheelchair.
- Electronic water faucets can be installed so they can run by a simple hand motion.
- At least one or more of the home entry and exit areas should be step free, in case someone is not able to climb steps.
- Entry areas should be well lit and have a large landing area.
- When using ramps, make sure these are easy to access without causing the wheelchair user to flip over.
- If you do have steps at other entries, or in the garden areas, make sure steps are deep enough to step on comfortably. Also, install step lights, much like the ones found at some of the newer parks.
- Install sturdy railings.
Again, with appropriate modifications we can help minimize fall risks, and provide a safe home environment for seniors wanting to age in place.
By: Ana P. DeLane
Senior Helpers of Orlando Team Member