Aging in Place: Plan Today for a Better Tomorrow

Amy Blitchok - January 23, 2014 10:14 AM

Now that we are solidly in 2014 and everyone is focusing on how to improve the year ahead, it is the perfect time to talk about aging in place and simple choices you can make at any age to help you enjoy a better quality of life well into your golden years.

IT IS NEVER TOO EARLY TO PLAN FOR AGING IN PLACE

If you are still mobile and years away from retirement, don’t make the mistake of waiting for problems to arise before you start thinking about ways to make your home more age friendly.  The entire process of planning for aging in place can begin with home shopping. 

Whether you are buying your first home or shopping for a house that will support your needs throughout retirement, the principles behind universal design are becoming more commonplace in new homes.  Designers and builders are responding to market demands and creating barrier free spaces that can accommodate the needs of several generations under one roof.  Unlike shag carpeting, this is one design trend that will never go out of style, so in addition to luxury features like heated floors and kitchen islands, be sure to shop around for home designs that will continue to serve people of any age.  Even if you eventually decide to sell your house, a home that incorporates age friendly features is sure to attract buyers even in the most crowded of real estate markets.

If you are interested in buying an existing home, there are certain design elements to add to your list of “must haves.”  Look for homes with open floor plans, wide doors, barrier free thresholds, and kitchens and bathrooms that are either already fully accessible or could be easily upgraded if needed.  Seemingly small choices that you make now can have a significant impact on your quality of life down the road.

A NEW FACTOR TO AGING IN PLACE

Most of the information on aging in place has to do with home design elements, safety devices, and mobility equipment. This limited focus ignores perhaps the most important factors that will determine whether you are a good candidate for aging in place:  diet and exercise. Aging in place is largely concerned with providing solutions to failing health and limited mobility, but there is something to be said for tackling the problem at its root.

All the chronic diseases that affect Americans, including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, are almost entirely the result of lifestyle choices.  By simply reducing sugar intake and making sure that you move a little every day, you can greatly increase your quality of life as you age and perhaps even avoid having to take advantage of mobility aids. Your doctor can help you develop a strategy for healthy aging and help you get access to the resources and support you will need to continue to make healthy choices every day.

SIMPLE SOLUTIONS

If you or your loved one is already experiencing limited mobility, there are some very simple steps you can take today that will instantly improve your safety:

1.    Improve visibility throughout your home by adding additional lighting that is easy to access and control.  An extra light isn’t going to do you much good if you have to bend behind the couch to turn it on in the middle of the night.  Look for simple touch lights, baseboard lighting, motion-sensing products, and LED options that can be installed without having to rewire your home. Be sure to focus on hallways, outdoor entries, and any steps that could pose a tripping hazard.

2.    Secure any potential obstacles such as cords and rugs that might get in the way and install rubber threshold ramps to help create a smooth transition through doorways.

3.    Reorganize cabinets so that the most frequently used items are easiest to access.  This might involve purchasing inexpensive organizational tools that can create pull out drawers in cabinet spaces, turntables so that nothing ever gets lost in the back corner, and other simple add-ons that can help de-clutter and simplify your home.

Again, all of these suggestions make sense for anyone of any age. Aging in place should not be limited to those who are already experiencing health and mobility challenges. A little bit of planning and awareness can go a long way in improving your quality of life. Start today to plan for tomorrow by making smart lifestyle choices and incorporating universal design elements into your current or future home. Make 2014 the year you start planning for aging in place.

Click here to read Amy Blitchok’s blog, “Affordable Solutions for Seniors to Age in Place”.

Amy M. Blitchok MA, is a professional writer and researcher who specializes in issues related to seniors, aging in place, and mobility and disability equipment.  One of her goals is to disseminate important information in the hopes of helping to improve the quality of life for seniors, their families, and caregivers.  Currently, she writes for AmeriGlide and you can read more of her articles on a variety of websites, blogs, and other publications.

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