The U.S. population is getting older. Data shows that there has been unprecedented growth in life expectancy, going from 47 years old in 1900 to 79 years old in 2013. As a result, people are coming to realize that major adjustments may have to be made later in life to accommodate for a longer lifespan. This is increasingly true for aging parents.
The biggest change for many seniors is where they live. Most seniors prefer to stay in the home where they’ve lived for years, but this isn’t always possible. Maintenance, cost and concerns over living alone prompt some seniors to sell their homes and move in with adult children. AARP recently reported on the rise in this cohabitation situation known as “shared living.”
If you’ve found yourself in that position, whether you’re a retiree who’s recently sold your home or an adult child that’s making room for mom or dad, there’s a good chance renovations will need to be made. It’s a matter of safety rather than aesthetics.
Installing a Residential Elevator or Stair Lift for an Aging Parent
Do you own a two-story home? Are all the bedrooms on the second floor? This is one of the most common issues that have to be overcome in a shared living situation. Stairs pose a significant risk for the elderly. Due to vision and mobility problems, the elderly are more likely to fall, and the result can be a devastating injury.
When there are no bedroom options on the first floor a residential elevator may need to be installed. Residential elevators are actually more affordable than most people realize. Technology and innovative designs have made it easier to retrofit elevators without having to do a major remodel. Some models can be installed in a matter of days.
A stair lift is another option if you don’t have room to install an elevator. A stair lift involves putting a track along the staircase that has a connected chair. You sit in the secured chair and essentially ride up the staircase instead of walking.
Install Handrails Throughout the Home
Another way to prevent falls is to install handrails. These give seniors a way to steady themselves when they aren’t using a cane or walker. It’s a fairly quick and inexpensive renovation that can greatly improve safety.
There are a few keys areas where you’ll want to make sure there are handrails for support:
- Entries – The walkway into the home, especially if there are steps, should have at least one handrail.
- Bathroom – The bathroom is where many seniors slip and fall due to the slick surfaces and moisture. Install a grab-bar by the toilet and the tub.
- Bedroom – Getting up in the middle of the night poses a risk because it’s harder to see. Putting a railing by the head of the bed can help seniors steady themselves when they get up.
- Kitchen – Like the bathroom, kitchens have slippery floor surfaces and spills can make things less safe. Put a few handrails around the kitchen, including the island if you have one.
Add Additional Lighting
Insufficient lighting can pose a safety hazard for anyone, but it’s particularly problematic for the elderly. As we age, our sight starts to worsen. It’s one of the primary reasons seniors are more prone to tripping and falling.
Improving the lighting is an affordable way to improve both safety and functionality for everyone in the house. A few updates to consider include:
- Motion sensor lighting turns on as soon as a person enters the room. It’s a great option for bathrooms.
- Smart light bulbs that can be scheduled to come on at a specific time, such as just before a parent gets up in the morning.
- Lighting that turns on at sunset ensures that a room is always well-lit whether it’s natural or artificial.
- Clap-on lights have been around for decades, and are a good addition to a parent’s bedroom.
- Nightlights can be added in bathroom and hallways to provide enough illumination to see without lighting up the entire house.
Put Ramps at Entries
One of the first hurdles for the elderly could be getting in and out of the house. Many homes have a short step up to the front and back doors, which could make things difficult for seniors with mobility issues.
The best fix is to build a ramp directly over or alongside the steps. The ramp should run all the way to the driveway, and you may need to check local zoning laws before installation.
When an aging parent has health problems or is unable to maintain their home it may be time for shared living. It will take time to adjust, but making the renovations above will help ensure a good quality of life and that safety isn’t compromised.