Now, more than ever, the concept of remaining in our homes well into our senior years is becoming increasingly attractive. But before we make that decision, there are some serious issues that need to be considered.
First and foremost is our health, for no matter how safe we make our home, we need to be healthy enough to live on our own, or at least with a minimum amount of assistance. Without a doubt, within the last 10 years there has been an explosion of services that can now be provided in the home, which can help us remain there longer.
Second is the structure itself. A single story floor plan with a minimum number of stairs is ideal. But it’s possible to live on just one floor of a multi-level home if there is enough appropriate living space, including bathroom and kitchen access. A few of the most prominent features that should be considered when buying a home or retro-fitted an existing one are:
- Appropriate floor lighting, especially at night
- Replacing faucet and door knobs with lever-type handles
- Non-slip floor surfaces, contrasting floor colors and a minimum number of floor height transitions
- Appliance “garages” to keep them accessible on the surface instead of in cabinets
- Increased task lighting (such as in the kitchen or next to a favorite chair)
- Roll out or pull down shelves
- Visual indicators for smoke/carbon monoxide alarms, doorbells and telephones
Along with this is the importance of eliminating extra furniture and clutter that can clog up hallways and create access barriers to bedrooms or living rooms. As our eyesight changes, it is harder to see these barriers and they can truly become a safety issue, especially when using a walker or cane to assist in mobility.
Home builders have certainly come to realize the importance of the features mentioned above and incorporate some of these into their new home construction. But there are issues outside the home that are significant as well:
- Distance to stores or health care offices
- Lawn care and snow removal
- Gates or fences for privacy and protection
- Sidewalks or other hard surface areas around the neighborhood
- Access to public transportation or availability of other transportation options
As we age, our ability to take care of and protect ourselves and our property and our capability to travel to stores, health care, entertainment and other locations all begin to change as time passes. If we can think about some of these issues now, before they cause difficulty, then the transition to aging in place becomes much less stressful. Certainly companies who provide in-home health care and homemaker services, property maintenance and senior transportation can all meet our needs, but they may not be in our budget, so other solutions must be sought before they become a critical dilemma.
As they say, “Choose wisely and choose well.” Think about the things that are so essential to you, what you treasure and what you feel you cannot live without. It could be going out for lunch with friends or working in your garden. Perhaps traveling to see relatives across town or walking along the river. Plan now for how you can continue to do those things as your ability to do them changes and someone makes these decisions for you. Life is what you make it. Make it great!
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