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Creating a Safe and Accessible Home Environment for Seniors accent

April 24, 2024 | By

As the saying goes, “There's no place like home!” Our attachment to our homes may grow even stronger as we age, but as time passes, we sometimes begin to experience our environments differently. So what can you do when your loved one’s home becomes less convenient and safe for them to navigate?

Enhancing your loved one’s well-being and mobility can help. Fitness classes, physical therapy, and other activities can lessen the effects of physical limitations and make staying at home easier. But even with these efforts, you may want to consider working with your loved one to make some modifications that will enhance the safety and comfort of their space. After all, home should be where a person feels most at ease.

What Is an Accessible Home?

Accessibility typically refers to a building’s ability to accommodate people with disabilities, especially those who use wheelchairs for mobility.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) made accessible design more common in commercial spaces, but most homes are not designed with mobility challenges in mind. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 10% of the nation’s houses are ready to accommodate older adults. Nine out of 10 homes are missing at least one of these key features:

  • A step-free entryway
  • A bedroom and full bathroom on the first floor
  • At least one bathroom accessibility feature, such as handrails or a built-in shower seat

Accessibility isn’t necessarily limited to mobility. For older adults, accessible homes support their needs — whatever those may look like — making home the accommodating environment it should be. 

Tips for Creating a More Accessible Home

If your loved one’s home isn’t as accessible as it could be, it’s time to discuss their needs and consider what changes you can make together to accommodate these needs. Consider whether any of these modifications could enhance the safety and comfort of your loved one’s home.

Wheelchair Accessibility

If your loved one uses a wheelchair or a similar mobility device, you should start by ensuring they can navigate their home. This may consist of:

  • Rearranging furniture to ensure ample pathways
  • Installing a ramp leading into the home 
  • Widening doorways where needed

Keep in mind that making major renovations — such as widening doorways — will require a qualified contractor.  You can find local contractors by searching online or by asking for personal referrals from friends, family, or neighbors. According to an article in Next Avenue, you should ideally receive written bids from at least three contractors and ask for references from past customers to feel confident about the one you choose.

Stairlift

If your loved one’s home is multi-story and they struggle to move up and down the stairs, a stairlift might be an excellent retrofit to make their home more accessible. These devices have been around in some form for a long time, but they’ve grown in popularity, with the global market expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.1% from 2023 to 2030. With more products and experienced installers to choose from, now is a great time to make your loved one’s home more accessible.

Handrails 

A slip or momentary loss of balance can be far less damaging when your loved one can grab something to help them avoid a fall. Consider adding handrails on any steps inside or outside the home. You can also install handrails anywhere your loved one could use a little help keeping steady. Records of fall-related ER visits among older adults show that the three most common locations of injurious falls are the bedroom, stairs, and bathroom.

 

Bathroom Modifications

The bathroom is an area where handrails or grab bars are a must. Install them in the shower or tub and near the toilet so your loved one can maintain balance and safely move between standing and sitting positions. You can also help prevent slips with non-slip pads in the tub or shower. If the bathtub is difficult for your loved one to step in and out of, talk with them about the possibility of installing a walk-in shower or a walk-in tub.

 

Tripping Hazard Removal

One step you can take for a more accessible home is identifying and removing any tripping hazards. Ensure your loved one can easily move from room to room in the home without encountering loose rugs or items on the floor that could trip them up. Decluttering the home can be a simple way to make it safer (and more peaceful!) without costing a dime.

 

Technology Solutions

Technology is bringing new levels of convenience to homes for all ages. Many smart home devices are voice-activated, making it possible to turn off the lights, adjust the thermostat, play a favorite song, and more — all without walking across the room or house. These smart home solutions are not only convenient, but can also save your loved one from the risky business of navigating their home in the dark or allow them to call for help when needed. Systems like fall detection technology can improve the safety of your loved one’s home even more, ensuring they receive help when needed.

 

Enhancing Independence Through Home Services

Creating a safe and accessible home environment is essential for maintaining your loved one’s independence and well-being. If home modifications aren’t enough to achieve that goal, consider talking to your loved one about signing up for at-home services. A friendly home services aide can assist them with activities of daily living or routine tasks, allowing them to more fully enjoy their home.

Learn more in The Complete Guide to At-Home Services!

Learn more about at-home services in our complete guide!

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