Making a home comfortable for the elderly

Private Property South Africa
Veronica Logan

Moving an aged loved one into a new home or helping them upgrade their home for safe and easy use is no small feat. That said, there are many simple changes that can be made to a home to accommodate them and improve their quality of life.

Getting old can be scary at the best of times and safety within everyday activities and environments becomes of paramount importance. Re-looking a home from the perspective of the aged and adapting it accordingly is therefore key. With this in mind, we’ve put together a guide on what safety measures to take as well as what simple adaptions can be made to make everyday life simpler and safer for your aged loved one.

Make it safe and easy to get around

Perhaps one of the most important areas to start with is making it easy for your loved one to move around freely in their home. This means taking into account any stairs that could be tricky to navigate and opting to make them level with the adjacent room through the use of hand rails or even ramps if budget allows. Safety handrails are a huge help when it comes to increasing the ease of mobility within their home so also look to install them in other key locations around the house such as in the passage and near exterior doors.

Another simple adaptation to consider is replacing all the doorknobs with lever handles as trying to grip and turn a doorknob can be tricky for anyone suffering with arthritis or decreased dexterity in their hands. Lever handles are simple to use and don’t require as much dexterity. You can also consider widening doorways with expendable offset hinges as these make life a lot easier for those using a wheelchair or walker by allowing a door to open at least 5cm wider than normal. You can read up on some of our other tips for making your home wheelchair-friendly here.

Consider ease of mobility

The type of flooring in a home can make a huge difference to how easy and safe it is for an elderly person to navigate their way around. Where possible, aim to make moving from one room to the next as fall-proof as possible by making the thresholds flush with one another. Loose area rugs are also a no-no as they provide ample opportunity for your loved one to trip especially on unsteady feet. Rather remove them or secure them to the floor with sticking pads or by tucking the edges under furniture. It’s also worthwhile considering low pile carpeting throughout the home and avoiding or removing high-gloss finishes or wooden floors.

Adapt the kitchen and bathroom

The kitchen and the bathroom often prove to be the areas of biggest concern when it comes to an elderly loved one’s safety and ease of interaction within the space. More often than not, the kitchen will boast high upper cabinets which are hard to reach and access, especially from a wheelchair or when using a walker. Rather opt to install additional cabinets at a lower level or move items for everyday use to existing below-counter cabinets. Adding a rolling cart to the kitchen can also prove helpful as these are mobile and easy to work with from a storage perspective – just be sure the one you choose has a high quality braking system to avoid any unnecessarily accidents.

When it comes to the bathroom, installing safety hand rails are an absolute must. If budget allows, consider swapping the bath out for a walk-in shower as this gives your loved one ample space to safely move around in, especially if in a wheelchair. Adding in a shower seat is also a worthwhile consideration for added safety and ease of use when it comes to bath time.

Opt for ergonomic furniture

Furniture choice plays another key role in the ease and safety of a space and it may mean upgrading certain pieces like beds or chairs to accommodate old and weary bodies! Consider how difficult it will be for your loved one to get in and out of a chair or bed and then look for furniture with specific features for the elderly, §such as chairs with built-in lumbar support or a bed that comes with side hoists.

Change the lighting

Surprisingly, the type of light switches and even the light bulbs in a home can play a role in the ease of everyday living for your aged loved one. Toggle light switches can be difficult to use for arthritic hands so rather opt for rocker light switches that one can gently push instead of flip. You can even take things a step further and look to install automatic or motion-sensor lighting for an even simpler and hassle-free user experience. Similarly, consider replacing normal bulbs with LED equivalents as these last far longer than normal bulbs and therefore require less maintenance in the way of changing them and potentially risking a nasty fall.

Creating a safe and user-friendly home environment for your elderly loved one doesn’t need to be difficult or exhaustive. Where possible, imagine yourself in their shoes and do what you can to make living in those shoes a little safer and easier. Doing so will not only make a world of difference to them and their day-to-day experiences, but will give you peace of mind that they are happy and secure in the space they call home.

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