To help older adults age safely research has identified many conditions that contribute to falling. These are called risk factors. Many risk factors can be changed or modified to help prevent falls and age safe. They include:
- Lower body weakness
- Vitamin D deficiency (that is, not enough vitamin D in your system)
- Difficulties with walking and balance
- Use of medicines, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, or antidepressants. Even some over-the-counter medicines can affect balance and how steady you are on your feet.
- Vision problems
- Foot pain or poor footwear
- Home hazards or dangers such as
- broken or uneven steps,
- throw rugs or clutter that can be tripped over, and
- no handrails along stairs or in the bathroom.
Most falls are caused by a combination of risk factors. The more risk factors a person has, the greater their chances of falling. Age Safe America Advisor Members can help cut down a person’s risk by identifying and reducing home fall risk hazards.
Many active seniors find it is far more cost-efficient to make home improvements to accommodate the effects of aging rather than seek out a facility that meets all of their unique needs. Moving to a typical assisted living facility can cost as much as $75,000.00 per year…or more, plus the cost of the move.
According to a recent report by the National Association of Home Builders the cost to widen a bathroom door, put in safety bars, and a roll-in shower would typically cost about $6,000 to $8,000, which is a one-time expense instead of a monthly or yearly drain on a homeowner’s finances.
In addition to the economics, consider the psychological impact of and being uprooted from your community, familiar rituals, independence and privacy. The affordability of aging-in-place remodeling is enhanced by the fact that medically necessary changes such as wider doorways or a roll-in shower may be deductible on your taxes if backed up by a letter from your doctor.
Kitchens – Lower, drawer-style appliances are wheelchair accessible, while D-shaped pulls make opening cabinets easier. Softer flooring and rounded counters reduce the possibility of injury. Make sure the home has lots of light by adding more or brighter light bulbs.
Workspaces – Desks and work counters should have a three-foot-wide knee drawer and additional lighting.
Doorways – Any entry can be widened for wheelchair width, thresholds can be eliminated and ramps can be installed.
Bathrooms – Water temperature controls and adjustable showerheads make it easy to get clean, while a curb-free, extra-wide shower with a bench makes showering more comfortable. Modifications such as adding grab bars inside and outside your tub or shower as well as next to the toilet. You can also install a walk in tub with comfortable, reclining interior and self-cleaning features.
Staircases – Add railings on both sides of stairwells or in a hallway. Or these can be eliminated altogether with an elevator or a wheelchair lift.