“A man’s home is his castle,” and this doesn’t change as we grow older. Studies and polls abound that reflect the preference of most seniors to stay in their homes, rather than to move in with relatives or to a retirement community. However, most homes “are Peter Pan housing…designed for people who never age or experience a disability,” explains Dr. Jon Pynoos, Director of the National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification. So what can be done to create a more supportive environment for someone who may be experiencing changes in their abilities, but wishes to continue living at home? Home modifications offer solutions—from simple to extreme—that can help them achieve their goal.
Home features we take for granted can hinder a senior’s ability to live comfortably and safely in a home in which they’ve (often) resided for decades. Here are a few simple modifications you might consider to make the home of a senior loved one more accommodating.
Replace doorknobs with lever handles to make it easier for those with grasping difficulties, as a result of arthritis, for example, to open doors. Instead of requiring a homeowner to grip and turn the doorknob, they can push the lever down with their wrist or forearm. Easy-grip doorknob covers offer a simpler installation solution.
Install a non-slip device in the shower or bathtub to prevent falls. For a simple, economical resolution, select a bath mat or decals, available at your local housewares store; or, you may choose to have your shower or bathtub refinished with a non-slip surface, which is more expensive. To further enhance the safety of the bathroom, install grab bars in the shower or tub and by the toilet.
Use visual signals to replace those a homeowner can’t hear. Use a smoke alarm with a strobe light to warn in case of fire, or outfit the doorbell with a flashing light to alert your senior loved one that they have a visitor.
According to Richard Duncan of the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University, less than 10 percent of homes in the U.S. are supportive of people with physical limitations. A professional knowledgeable in home modification will provide a thorough evaluation of your senior homeowner’s needs and develop a comprehensive plan with you to make their castle as safe, accommodating and comfortable as possible for years to come.