All of us, if lucky enough, face the inevitable changes that occur as we age. Some less than others are generally due to condition and overall health. Because of these changes, we often think that we need to find a place to live that is designed to accommodate these changes.
Well, maybe yes, and maybe no. Your decision entirely pivots on two aspects of your life. First, are you comfortable where you are, and second, are you physically able to live there with some simple changes?
If the second scenario is an option, then let’s look at some of the simple changes that can be made to make staying in place more comfortable.
Let’s begin with the most dangerous room in your home: the bathroom. The most dangerous part of this room is the tub/shower. If you have a tub, you need to step over the edge to get into it or the shower; grab bars are a necessity. Usually you will need a minimum of three bars arranged in a manner to facilitate getting in and out of the tub and while standing in a shower.
These can be placed vertically at the rear of the tub away from the faucet that allows you to support yourself while stepping over the rim of the tub. Another would be on the wall next to you as you stand facing the shower head. This bar ideally is a combination of a horizontal bar and a portion that is on a 45-degree angle. This allows you to some support while showering and the 45-degree angle facilitates support if you should slip.
The last bar should be above the faucet so you can grab it while sitting in the tub to assist standing up. Now, the tub must have a non-slip bottom, no exceptions. A mat is helpful; however, it is better to have that grit imbued into the tub surface. Mats can move. In a perfect world, you would remove the tub and create a zero entry shower with a seat and an adjustable hand-held sprayer or shower head. These can be very useful particularly if you are seated.
The water closet or toilet is next. There are all manner of devices that can help you move onto or off of the seat. Specialty devises can be discussed on a case by case basis. Generally though, you want to get a toilet that is at least ‘comfort’ height or handicapped height. This makes for easier transitions.
The sink faucets can be switched out to be a paddle design instead of the twisting faucet handle. This will make it easier to turn on or off without having to turn anything.
The floor of the bathroom also needs to have some grit to it to prevent slipping when wet of if you happen to be in stocking feet. Again, if you can avoid mats you are better off as these can be tripping hazards.
The next most utilized room is your kitchen. Here we look at the same faucet features as the bathroom. A paddle handle is easier to manipulate than turning handles. A concern in this room is reaching for items. Pots, pans, dishes, cups, whatever you have stored in the cabinets should be easier to get to. For lower cabinets having slide out shelving is a real back saver. Often these can be installed in your existing cabinets by a qualified cabinetmaker. With the upper cabinets, arranging items so the heavier ones are kept on the bottom shelf make lifting and lowering simpler.
Counters are our next issue. Having sufficient counter space next to the three major appliances is a must. The stove should have a minimum of 18” to 24” on each side for moving pots and pans on to or off of the cooking surface. The refrigerator should have a similar space on at least one side to place items either going in or coming out. The bottom of the oven would ideally be at counter height, and this applies to the microwave as well.
Most of the simple fixes above can be worked into your home. Some are very inexpensive and can be considered DIY. Other may need the help of a pro to work them in. Either way, look around your home and see what small changes you can make to stay where you feel most comfortable.