Retirement Years at Home

The term “aging in place” has become popular for baby boomers who would rather live out their retirement years in their own home than move into a nursing home.  A 2007 study by The EAR Foundation, a nationwide, non-profit organization which provides services to persons who are deaf, have a hearing loss, or balance impairment, showed that the vast majority of retirees want to age in place. The study even showed that retirees fear moving into a nursing home more than death.  If boomers decide to stay in their homes, the best thing they can do is safety-proof their homes against hazards.

Some changes to improve your home will be inexpensive add-ons while others may require detailed remodeling done by a contractor.  Do not be discouraged and only take on what you feel is necessary.  Remember, this is the opportunity to make your home as fit and practical as any nursing home would be, and to give your loved ones the assurance that you will be safe “aging in place.”  Below are a few suggested items that can accident-proof your homes.

Your Home Should Cater to Your Needs

Balance & Coordination Issues

  • Grab bars near the bath and toilet
  • Bath seat in the tub or shower
  • Handrails that extend beyond the top and bottom of staircasesRetirement Years at Home
  • Handrails on both sides of staircase
  • Phone in the bathroom

Hearing Impairment

  • Volume raised on telephones and door bell
  • Dishwasher that is ultra-quiet to reduce background noise
  • Smoke detectors that have strobe lights

Limited Reach

  • Ensure closet rods pull down to a comfortable level
  • Buy a clothes washer and dryer that is front-loading
  • Place your microwave oven no higher than 48 inches from the floor

Limited Vision

  • Install automatic lights in all closets
  • Ensure outside walkways and entrances are well-lit
  • Ensure stairs are well-lit
  • Ensure stove controls are clearly marked and easy to see

Poor Hand & Arm Strength

  • Get an automatic garage door opener
  • Replace doorknobs with lever handles
  • Garbage disposal to reduce trash
  • Trash compactor to minimize trash bags
  • Special stick-resistant hardware to make drawers slide easily
  • Dishwasher is eight inches from the floor

Trouble Bending

  • Elevated toilet/toilet seat
  • Sink no more than six inches deep
  • Countertop, low enough to be used while sitting

Trouble Walking & Climbing Stairs

  • Driveway is smooth, but not slippery
  • Floors are smooth and slip resistant—no area rugs
  • Stairs have slip-resistant surface
  • Knee space under the sink to sit while washing dishes
  • Knee space under the stove to sit while cooking

Uses a Wheelchair

  • “Walk-in” closet wide enough for wheelchair entrance
  • Appliances have controls at front
  • Electrical outlets are 26 inches above the floor
  • Oven doors swing to the side
  • Roll-in shower
  • Doors and hallways are wide enough for wheelchair
  • Ramp to front door with landings at top and bottom
  • Can wheel to bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen

By making a few adjustments, you and your loved ones will find peace of mind knowing that you are safe in your home even when aging.  Start these home improvements now—don’t wait until a problem occurs.