Posted by Positive Aging SourceBook on 01/10/2020

Creating Safe and Accessible Homes

Creating Safe and Accessible Homes

According to 2018 Home and Community Preferences: A National Survey of Adults Age 18-Plus by AARP, 3 out of 4 adults age 50 and older want to stay in their homes and communities as they age. However, older adults are painfully aware of the challenges that come with aging in place. In the same study, only 59 percent of respondents anticipated being able to stay in their communities. 

Unfortunately, more than half of Americans (52%) age 65 plus will need long-term care in their lifetimes, according to investment research firm Morningstar. Otherwise healthy older adults often need help recovering after a major illness or a fall. In fact, falls are the most frequent cause of injury for older adults and often lead to increased care needs.  A 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that about a third of older adults fall each year—and the number of falls is steadily rising.  

If older adults plan to successfully age in place, they must plan ahead to improve the safety and function of their home environment. 

Fortunately, there are a wealth of providers dedicated to helping older adults age in place. From home modification companies to emergency response services, there are professionals who can help older adults live in their homes for a lifetime. 

Test Your Home’s Health

1. Is there a step-free entrance into your home?

2. Is there a bedroom, full bath and kitchen on the main level?

3. Are the interior doorways at least 36” wide?

4. Are the kitchen cabinets and shelves easy for you to reach?

5. Are there secure handrails on both sides of the stairs?

6. Are your staircases and hallways well lighted? 

7. Do all of your area rugs have non-slip grips to prevent tripping or slipping?

8. Do you have a shower with a step-free entry?

9. Are there nonslip strips or nonslip mats in the bathtub and/or shower?   

10. Is there “blocking” (e.g. a wood stud or other solid surface) behind the bathroom walls, so grab bars can be securely installed in the bathtub, shower and toilet areas?

Excerpted from AARP’s HomeFit Guide. Consumers can download the complete worksheet at www.aarp.org/livable-communities/info-2014/home-fit-resources-worksheets.html.

Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists

Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists (CAPS) are professionals who are knowledgeable about home modifications to facilitate aging in place. They are familiar with common remodeling projects and can offer solutions to the common barriers to remaining at home. 

To find a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist in your area, call the National Association of Home Builders at 800-368-5242 or use the “Find a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist” tool at nahb.org.

Occupational Therapists 

As licensed health professionals, Occupational Therapists (OTs) help older adults find the supports they need to maximize health, safety and independence in the home environment. After performing an in-home assessment and identifying daily routines, OTs can make recommendations that will enhance both the function and safety of the home. To learn more about occupational therapists, visit AOTA.org. 

Technology to Promote Independence - Smart home technology can make aging in place safe and easy. 

Digital voice assistants (like Amazon Echo) can offer simple improvements to everyday environments. For older adults with vision impairment, the speakers allow users to access audio books, so they can easily “read.” The devices can also play a wide variety of music and games, offering a remedy for both loneliness and boredom. Finally, speakers can be programmed to control thermostats, lights and security features. 

Video doorbells and in-home cameras allow adult children and other caregivers at a distance to monitor the movements and safety of older adults who are living alone. 

Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) keep older adults connected to emergency call centers that are monitored 24 hours a day by using a small transmitter that can be worn around the neck or on a belt. 

Consumers can purchase, rent or lease a PERS. When purchasing a PERS, consumers will typically pay a one-time installation fee, as well as a monthly monitoring charge. For rentals, fees generally include use of the equipment and the monitoring service.

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