Home Care Library
Home Improvements as You Get Older
Studies show that every year about one-third of all people 65 and older will slip and fall in their homes. And two-thirds of these will fall again in six months. Adding grab bars and handrails can significantly reduce the chance of slips and falls in the areas which are most at risk: bathrooms and elevation transitions (e.g., steps). Grab bars and handrails are relatively inexpensive to add and can be made to blend in very elegantly. However, be sure that they are installed sturdily into the walls, so that they don't provide just a false sense of security.
As we get older, our visual capabilities decline. We need more light to see, and our depth perception also decreases. To compensate for this, it is a good idea to add night lights near areas of transition in your house, for example, near stairs and doorways. The good news is that now you can get LED-type night lights that use a small fraction of the electricity of traditional incandescent-style nightlights (see types, costs, and reviews of LED-type night lights). And you can get the type of nightlights that automatically turn on when the room gets dark.
Further, as we age we begin to have more difficulty in perceiving edges, such as the difference between the wall and the floor, and the floor and say a kitchen island. This can be remedied by using contrasting colors. You don't need to re-paint all the walls, but rather you can just paint the trim where the wall meets the floor. And for counters in the kitchen, painting the edges of the counters with a contrasting color will make them easier to find when you need them for support, and easier to see for avoiding bumping into them.
The concept of "equitable use" is about making functional changes to your home that are appealing to all users, irrespective of their age. An example of this is replacing your doorknobs with levers instead. Levers are much easier to use than gripping and twisting a knob (see types, costs, and reviews of lever-style doorknobs). And at the same time, levers can also look very elegant.
And lastly, if you are remodeling your home, you might want to also consider features that will provide easy access in the future. For example, when remodeling your kitchen, you can have extra space added around your island so that it can easily accommodate a wheelchair turning around. Or if you live in a two-story home, you might want to consider adding a motorized assist for your stairs, and although expensive, maybe even adding an elevator lift.
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