Any home can work for aging in place

Sep 11th, 2020 | By | Category: Lifestyles

It may seem silly to start adapting your home in your fifties or sixties to make it more accessible and easier to navigate for someone who uses a walker, is in a wheelchair or cannot reach high shelves due to arthritis.  Though, when you currently have none of these conditions, it is the right time to make adjustments and something that many Americans should seriously consider. In a survey conducted by the National Council on Aging, older Americans overwhelmingly indicated that they would prefer to remain living in their current residence as they grow older. Nine out of ten seniors planned on living in their home for 5-10 years more at least, which should make planning ahead for future mobility challenges a priority.

Interestingly, the majority of seniors surveyed (85%) did not think their homes would need any significant renovations to enable them to continue living there. This might be true when in good health and mobility is unimpaired, but the reality is that many seniors will experience a fall after the age of 65.  Modifications in key areas such as bathrooms and long hallways will reduce their risk of fall and greatly enhance their ability to move about their home safely.  For example, a shower with a small step up or down poses no hurdle in your younger years, but as the years pass those few inches could really matter.

Of course, preparation does not call for massive structural renovations like knocking out walls. There are practical changes that can be made for reasonable costs and without massive disruption to everyday life. For example, installing grab bars in bathrooms or at door thresholds where a step down or up is required.  Quick, low-cost changes like this can lessen the risk for falls that could turn into more complicated health problems.  In addition, there are easy-to-use technologies that can make life easier for seniors and provide peace of mind for family members.

While some people may find it overly invasive, there are companies that offer monitoring services via in-home WiFi connected cameras and sensors.  These devices can detect falls, lack of movement or other characteristics that may indicate a health problem.  This then triggers an alarm that allows a professional emergency response team, caregivers or family members to perform a visual or voice check-in.  These solutions are limited to the home and while they serve a purpose the safety net does not extend to out-of-home mobility.

For mobile seniors, there are also mPERS devices. Mobile Personal Emergency Response Systems can be worn like a pendant or a watch that seniors press if they fall and need medical assistance.  mPERS devices work inside and away from the home and they can also often auto-detect falls to call for help without any action from the person wearing or carrying the device.  These devices offer two-way voice communication with professionally trained emergency response operators, 911 operators, loved ones or caregivers depending upon how they are setup.  Often the service providers can also provide loved ones and caregivers access to a mapping tool that shows the location of the senior with the mPERS device in real-time.

Aging in place is an admirable goal and one that anyone who wants to should pursue. It is important to be realistic about the health challenges that one could face down the road and to plan for the unexpected. Doing so will only make living at home possible for longer. There may be an upfront cost and it may require dealing with aging issues that many of us would prefer to ignore and sweep under the rug, but the benefits of planning ahead outweigh the disappointment of having to move out of the home you have loved for years.

 

Chris Holbert, who wrote this article, is the chief executive officer of SecuraTrac, which develops and sells mobile health and safety poducts for families and workplaces.

 

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