by Michael Longsdon

Robert Browning said, “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.” Seniors who hope to make their golden years their best ones can ensure continued independence with an appropriate living environment. Here’s what to look for when purchasing a senior-friendly home and what to do if you’re ready to modify your current abode to keep you safe as you age.

Goals and Perspective

Growing older often means reduced mobility due to waning strength and flexibility, balance issues, and weaker vision. All those things together can make maneuvering around a traditional home difficult. Even if you are currently aging well, when injuries or health concerns occur, you might need to use a wheelchair, walker, or another assistive device. There are housing designs and concepts which promote accessibility, and making choices to accommodate senior needs ahead of time is a key in remaining self-sufficient.

The Wisdom of Smart Homes

Technology can play a crucial role in keeping you safe and independent as you grow older. An appropriately enabled smart home can recognize your comings and goings, unlock doors, turn on lights for you, and adjust temperature, thus simplifying your lifestyle. It is more than a convenience — it is a safety concern when your aging body is trying to navigate light switches, door knobs, and bundles of groceries; if a cane is thrown into the mix, it can become a recipe for disaster. So, think in terms of light bulbs that you can adjust by voice or phone. There are smoke detectors that can notify you of trouble by flashing lights and, at the same time, contact loved ones during an emergency. Doorbells can trigger lights to alert you to visitors, stoves can turn themselves off after use, and Fox Business points out you can even add an automated bed that helps you in and out, easing the strain on your back and joints.

One Floor Living

Stairs can be a tremendous burden to older bodies, and it’s one of the first things many seniors need to address when it comes to aging in place. Eliminating steps and stairwells from normal navigation sounds challenging if your master suite is upstairs and your laundry is in the basement, but oftentimes, altering your environment to accommodate one-floor living is easier than you might think. Consider converting a den, home office, or dining area into a bedroom. Move a washer and dryer into that bedroom or create a mudroom area adjoining the kitchen.  For homes where the laundry is a distance from the bedroom, consider using a rolling cart to get clothing back and forth. If you’re contemplating new construction and a second floor is indispensable, the Spruce recommends adding a laundry chute.

Floors and Slippery Surfaces

Flooring can make a tremendous difference in being able to navigate in your own home. It’s important to have smooth surface flooring should it become necessary to use a wheelchair or walker. If carpeting is a must, stick with a low-pile, and ensure rugs are secured so they don’t become slipping or tripping hazards. In the bathroom area, an anti-slip surface is ideal for bathing, and an easy solution is to add traction strips or a rubber mat. Also in the bathroom, grab bars can be essential in the event you lose your balance. Add a taller toilet as well since they are easier to get on and off.

House Hunting

Many seniors elect to move instead of converting their home for accessibility. Maybe it’s time to downsize, or maybe you want to be closer to your grandkids. You can use an aging-in-place checklist to help evaluate potential properties during your housing search. Also, some experts recommend looking for a property with ready access to public transportation since driving can become an issue for many older people.

Your living environment can have a huge impact on your self-sufficiency during your golden years. Consider modifying your current home or finding an appropriate property. Staying safe and independent is possible with the right circumstances.

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