Luckily, more and more resources are becoming available to keep you living at home (AKA “aging in place”) – as long as possible. Here’s a roundup of some solutions to common challenges.
Universal Design Remodeling
If you’re planning to remodel, look into Universal Design principles to help keep the family home a place that works for people of all ages. Planning to change your front door? Check to make sure it’s wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Want a kitchen remodel? Lower some counters so they can be accessed while seated (and an accessible sink is a good idea, too). Grab bars are easy to add in all your bathrooms, plus lighting so stairways and walkways are easily visible. Take a look at AARP’s resource on Universal Design for other senior-friendly features to incorporate into your home — and consider bringing in a gerontologist for further suggestions.
Help From a Gerontologist
Gerontologists are specifically trained to help seniors adjust to aging. Some specialized gerontologists even run companies that help install the home modifications seniors need — and they can often provide the reassurance that families and medical professionals want to see to approve seniors remaining in their own homes.
Mobility and Transportation
As some seniors begin to cope with limited mobility, they can feel trapped in their homes. Medicare often covers the costs of walkers, electric chairs or scooters to help with mobility-on-foot issues.
Getting out of the house can be a little more complicated, but options are available there as well. Some communities offer public transportation that’s low-cost or even free to seniors, and taxi services and ride share providers such as Lyft also offer discounts. Check out transportation options for seniors to see what your neighborhood might offer.
Sometimes your concerns about safety go a bit further than having a grab bar in the shower. Consider getting an emergency alert system that can connect you to help in case of any unsafe situation. If you suddenly become ill, if you fall down and are unable to get up again, or if you feel unsafe because of something happening outside your home, all you have to do is push a button to be plugged into emergency medical personnel or other help. Some emergency alert systems work with your landline phone, while others are connected to your cell phone or household digital assistant.
Many seniors only need a little help during the day to maintain their independence. Part-time caregivers can be a handy solution to help seniors who want to stay in their own home but can no longer handle housekeeping or cooking chores, or who need help running errands or handling medication. Consider adult day care as well as an option that lets you get out of the house. Respite care is also available to give full-time caregivers a break.
House-sharing and Roommates
The National Shared Housing Resource Center is a clearinghouse that provides information, referrals to local agencies, programs and guidelines on finding a housemate. The site offers a book, “Consumer’s Guide to Home Sharing” ($10). A written manual and guide for house sharers are also available for purchase. Senior Planet has covered this topic in detail (read our story here).
And, of course, technology can go a long way to help seniors stay at home and remain independent. Besides Amazon Echo, Google Home and Alexa, the tech industry has been busy producing new technologies (some are wearable) to track movement, remind people to take medications and keep them safe. Here’s a good roundup of what’s out there.