Important Home Modifications to Support Independent Living

Aging may be inevitable, but moving to an assisted living community is anything but. It only takes a few modifications to your home to easily extend your ability to live independently and safely.

Aging in place is all about reducing the risk of falls and having safety procedures in place if any assistance is required. Falls are, after all, a central reason seniors lose their mobility, and by extension, their independence.

As we age, simple obstacles we never thought of can suddenly become a significant hazard. So, if you’re choosing to age in place and maintain a safe level of independent living, there’s no better time to start modifying the things around your house.

Start with Simple Modifications That You Can Do on Your Own

Many important home modifications are things you can do affordably on your own, or with the help from family, friends, or neighbors; and you can start these safety modifications right away.

Add more lights – There are many places in the home that could be deemed risky simply because there is low lighting – like the stairway. Make sure you have bright overhead lighting and even consider nightlights to keep those darker corners well lit.

Embrace an open design philosophy – The more space you give yourself, the safer you will be. If the only thing that sits on a piece of furniture in a room are some old books, it’s time for it to go. Open your rooms to give yourself more space to navigate.

Clear the paths – Clear the pathways between rooms to keep them clutter-free. Electrical cords are serious offenders!  Keep your electrical appliances as close to their outlets as possible to avoid tripping.

Organize the kitchen – Rearrange your kitchen to keep things of regular use within reach. Don’t store items that require a chair or stepladder.  Even consider removing things from their lowest drawers so you don’t have to strain to bend.

Clean the closet – Keep your closets clutter free. This is especially important for walk-in closets. Make sure there’s nothing on the floor between you and your clothes.

Remove rugs – Standard rugs and area rugs should go. They are too high a tripping hazard. But don’t shy away from using rubber anti-fatigue mats in the kitchen, since their weight help hold them in place. Non-slip bathmats for the restroom are also okay.

Modifications that Require Professionals

Some modifications, however, do require a professional. You may need to hire contractors or subscribe to third-party services to better support your independence. While this will take more effort and time to complete, it will be worth the investment in the end.

Get better lighting – Change out those small lights in the house – they’re usually the aesthetically pleasing ones but leave shadows in the corners, which also don’t extent into hallways very well. Have an electrician change fixtures that don’t provide enough light (especially over stairways) to make sure you see all potential tripping hazards.

Increase accessibility – Work with a contractor to widen doorways, add ramps, install grab bars, and lower countertops. There may come a time when you need to start using a wheelchair or other motorized devices to get around, and these modifications will make it possible to do so.

Update your floors – Change to flooring that provides better friction to avoid slips. Tile or waxed hardwood or other slick flooring can be a real threat. Replace this kind of flooring with something that offers more traction.

Change the bathroom features – Install a shower that has a small clearance for ease of entry with a non-slip shower mat. You don’t want to step up over the sides of a bathtub. 

Add smarter features – While you can install some simple “smart” features throughout your house, some of the more involved installations may require a Life Guardian trained technician. You can set your home to turn lights on and off remotely, adjust temperatures automatically, and see who is at the door with some simple voice commands or simply looking at your handheld tablet.

Keep everything on one floor – You need to minimize trips up and down the stairs. So, if possible, move to a first-floor bedroom, or convert another main-floor room to a sleeping area. The same goes for laundry—move your washer/drier to the main floor.

Stay connected – You never know when an accident may happen (even with all of these precautions and modifications). A medical alert pendant may be your lifeline to professional personnel who can help. Always keep your pendant with you so you can get help when you need it.

Aging in place is possible for many seniors, but to do it safely it is important to make these modifications throughout your house. Your medical alert pendant can help you if a fall should happen, but you can also take some precautions to avoid those falls in the first place.  Contact Life Guardian to learn more about your options.