Seniors choose to age in place because staying in their home preserves their happiness and independence during a time of life when change can be especially disorienting and upsetting. However, remaining at home doesn’t happen without some kind of adjustment. Living safely at home depends on a senior’s willingness and ability to adapt and make changes in both environment and lifestyle. These are positive changes aimed at minimizing the risk of in-home accidents and reducing a senior’s dependence on others for the completion of simple, in-home activities.
Falls are a major threat to seniors, especially those who wish to age in place. According to the National Council on Aging, one in four seniors age 65 and over suffers a fall every year, and an older adult is treated in an emergency room for injuries sustained in a fall every 11 seconds. So it’s essential to have plenty of open space in each room so you can move around unimpeded and with minimal risk of tripping. Small pieces of furniture, throw rugs and loose electrical cords must be cleared to provide an ample pathway.
Make sure there’s plenty of lighting, especially in dimly lit areas, and take extra precautions to prevent accidents in the bathroom as 80 percent of senior falls occur in this room. It’s also a good idea to install grab rails next to the toilet and in the shower.
Make a list of modifications needed in each room to facilitate mobility and accessibility and ensure safety. Access can often be improved by replacing door knobs with levers, which are easier to manipulate, widening doorways (at least 32 inches across), ensuring that light switches are within easy reach, and installing light sensors where necessary (the bedroom, hallway and bathroom are good places for light sensors).
Older adults can do simple but useful exercises designed to strengthen both the core and legs to help prevent falls and make getting around easier. Toe stands, knee curls and leg extensions can be done just about anywhere and only take a few minutes. If you’re a Medicare Advantage plan enrollee, you could be eligible to participate in the SilverSneakers program, which makes it easier to get out and engage in healthy activities. Subscribers have access to more than 13,000 fitness centers across the country.
Smart home features
Consider having smart home surveillance and security features installed to ensure regular communication with loved ones. These measures can also provide safety and comfort and boost independence. GPS locators, lighting and motion sensors, video cameras, and environmental smart controls make it easy to stay in contact with loved ones and can bring help within minutes.
An engaging social life is one of the healthiest lifestyle changes a senior can make, particularly if you live alone. Make liberal use of email, smartphones, social networking sites and video conferencing tools like Skype and FaceTime to stay in touch with friends. Schedule get-togethers, make plans to exercise with someone, and enjoy impromptu meetings at your favorite coffee shop. Regular social engagements should be a cornerstone of your active lifestyle.
Staying on top of medication needs is critical, and this includes avoiding dangerous interactions. Maintain a list of all medications along with dosage and expiration and keep them in a daily organizer, which should be kept in a highly visible and readily accessible place. And always be sure any expired medications are disposed of properly.
Staying active, healthy and safe at home is a function of both environment and lifestyle. Physical modifications and social outreach are essential aspects of a sustainable and rewarding life. Aging in place can lead to choices that promote positive, transformative change for seniors who want to remain at home.
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Author: Caroline James