Ageing is difficult. It comes with a number of challenges - both physical and psychological. As our bodies refuse to cooperate and we find ourselves unable to do simple tasks we’ve done all our lives, we begin to feel a loss of confidence. Embarrassment and frustration settle in. This may very well be the case for many of the elderly in our lives.
Often times, they may feel as if they are a burden. It can be simple issues like requiring someone’s help to constantly hand them things out of reach in the kitchen, or needing assistance to go to the bathroom. For people who have led fulfilled, independent lives, this can be understandably depressing.
To overcome this, the goal is to help them feel comfortable, self-sufficient and in control of their surroundings. Here are six design elements to consider when it comes to making your home more elder-friendly.
Poorly-lit areas are just an invitation for falls, bumps and bruises. Ensure that each and every hallway, doorway and room in your home is adequately lit and brightly illuminated. Take special care of entryways by making sure the light-switch is easily accessible from the door. In addition to more light fixtures, ensure light bulbs aren’t visible and bare as that might produce a harsh glare.
Turning a doorknob or twisting a faucet might seem easy enough to you and I, but it can actually be quite the task for someone with arthritis or other conditions limiting hand movement. The fix for this is so insanely simple: just use lever-style hardware for doors and sinks instead.
To avoid bumps and bruises, ensure there’s sufficient space for maneuvering in the kitchen area. Ideally, there should be ample storage space within reach, so our lovely chefs don’t have to bend over or raise their arms up high. Providing a work space with seating for tasks like chopping may be a good idea, as well as ensuring knee clearance below sinks and stove areas so they can be seated whilst cooking and cleaning.
We’re all probably more prone to accident and injury in the bathroom than anywhere else, and this risk is only intensified for the elderly. Requiring help to go to the bathroom, usually multiple times a day, can be quite the source of embarrassment.
To make this process easier, consider installing grab bars beside the toilet and inside the shower area. Slip-resistant mats in the bathroom are a must. Additionally, consider providing seating (with appropriate height) within the shower area if space permits it. Instead of a fixed shower head, consider a height-adjustable hand-held shower head. Also consider if the sink height is favourable, and avoid having over-the-sink storage for various bathroom paraphernalia as they may be out of reach.
Slips in the bathroom aren’t your only concern, potentially every floor in the house can present a hazard for a slip or a trip. Consider adding non-skid mats below area rugs or removing said rugs entirely. The criterion for good flooring is that it should be slip-resistant, level and provide smooth transitioning between rooms. Steps in the entryway or thresholds dividing rooms are common tripping points, and should be removed accordingly.
In addition to having seating arrangements in the kitchen and bathroom, take a look at what else the elderly in your home do on a day-to-day basis and make those experiences more comfortable for them. If they enjoy watching the kids play, then keep a space for them in the playroom, if they love watching TV and the living room seating doesn’t cut it, change it for them. The nature of seating should also be taken into consideration. Think about an arrangement with ample back and arm support as well as suitable height so they don’t need to be assisted.
The elderly often hate to ask for anything or speak up when they’re uncomfortable so it’s up to us to pay closer attention to their needs. Hopefully, these tips will go a long way in promoting self-reliance and convenience. Happy living!