Home spaces designed with thought will benefit seniors and add to their overall safety and comfort
While most seniors like to be independent, a thoughtfully designed home will enhance your comfort safety and enjoyment. In India, many homes have a joint family, and they may benefit from some tips below, to enhance the lives of their elders. Additionally, there are couples and single seniors who can senior proof their homes and enjoy their spaces.
Here are some important factors that you can take into consideration:
1. Choose A Good Flooring
This is a fundamental factor in a senior abode. Safety, ease of maintenance are primary considerations for a good sturdy flooring for the elderly. For seniors with an unsteady gait, a non-slip surface is a must.
Some types of flooring to consider are:
Carpeted flooring has its pros and cons. It is comfortable underfoot and offers to cushion in the event of a fall but is not suitable for elders who are in a wheelchair. Another downside is that carpets require maintenance. In our weather, they are not easy to keep clean as they need regular vacuuming, and they also get stained easily.
Avoid any loose rugs however beautiful they are! You can secure the rugs, carpets and door mats, using anti-slip rug underlays.
Maintaining vinyl floors is more practical and easier. Luxury vinyl planks, wooden- look floors, are also a good and safe option. Tip: if you can add a layer of cork below, it provides a cushioning effect in case of falls.
Anti-skid vitrified or ceramic tiles are easy to keep clean but do not offer a non-slip surface when wet, so caution is necessary with these floorings.
Especially in bathrooms, tiles if possible, should be replaced with flamed granite or a similar surface that has an even, rough texture. Dry bathrooms reduce the possibility of slipping.
Ensure that the areas near the WC and wash basins are dry and that the wet area is separate and confined to the shower area.
The colour of the flooring is also an important consideration. Whites and light colours do not show up water spills, and even a little water on the floor can cause a nasty accident.
2. Senior Utility Furniture
Don’t clutter your home with too much furniture or artefacts.
Sharp edges and corners should be avoided, and chairs should be sturdy, of a good height and properly balanced. Beds, chairs, and furniture for seniors to sit on should be of a good height and not low, as getting up and sitting down can be painful for the joints. Side tables are a handy accessory. Nested tables are also useful. Keep them next to the bed or bedside seating areas as they are useful for keeping spectacles, phones, water, medicines and so on.
All items inside the wardrobe should be easily accessible and designed for less bending or reaching up.
3. Replace Doorknobs with Lever Style Handles
While most of us do not give a second thought to the act of turning a doorknob, it can be very painful for those who have joint pain. Levers are easier to open than knobs that keep twisting, plus they are especially difficult for arthritic hands.
4. Well-lit Areas are a Must
As we grow older, our eyesight deteriorates. Experts advise that lighting should be cool and bright, and white light is preferred over yellow lights. But this is a personal preference, that has to be taken into consideration.
Here are some factors to keep in mind:
- Plan to add adequate ambient lighting for safe navigation around the house, and specific lighting for reading books or other hobbies.
- Fit a pull cord switch for lights in areas where necessary.
- In the bedroom, wire a connection to the main light right next to the bed, making it easy to control lights and fans.
- Lighting in the cupboard is also extremely helpful and a great idea.
- A night lamp is a must in the bedroom and living room, so that night trips to the bathroom or anywhere in the house, are not made in the dark.
- Switches – (lights and air conditioning etc.) – can be operated using a remote.
- If you have stairs- staircase lighting is an important safety consideration.
5. Install Grab Bars and Railings
Grab bars are an essential safety feature in bathrooms for the elderly. Easy to install, they offer support when bathing and using the toilet. There are many varieties of grab bars; try to install ones that are bolted into the wall.
Note that using the towel rail as a grab bar may not offer the support needed to hold body weight, so keep this in mind.
Many seniors prefer hand showers as they are more convenient.
Railings at the side of stairs and other areas, depending on the design of the house, are an exceedingly helpful feature.
6. The Kitchen Should Feel Comfortable Yet Practical
Kitchen functionality must be designed keeping comfort in mind, as manual dexterity slows down as we age.
Some design aspects to consider in the kitchen:
- Avoid bending or positions that hamper the knees and joints, as much as possible
- Items should not be kept on high shelves especially if seniors are living alone
- Appliances should be simple to use and have controls that are easy to operate.
- Faucets should be a single lever which is easier to operate.
- Glass cabinet shutters make it easy to see what is (it’s also a good idea to have cabinet lighting installed so that everything is clearly visible).
- Use your kitchen timer to remind you of a chore or task that you need to get done.
- Have a safe non-skid flooring.
7. Wheelchair Access
If wheelchair access is a priority, then you should have wider doors and clear passageways in every room.
Also ensure that entryways have a ramp with a gentle slope, in addition to steps.
8. Tackling Staircases
Many seniors find it hard to climb up the stairs. If your house has stairs and you cannot climb or use a ground level room; then you can consider installing a Stairlift – This is a mechanical device with a chair or a lifting platform that moves along a rail that’s mounted on the treads.
9. Open the Windows and Enjoy the Outdoors
Many elderly people are restricted to the house, and large windows or balconies are a lovely way for them to keep in touch with the outdoors.
Make sure you have access to outdoor street views and views of gardens etc.
Allow for plenty of sunlight can stream in, ensuring that you get your daily dose of Vitamin D without having to leave home.
Get more oxygen at home – add oxygenating plants to help you breathe fresher air naturally, but be aware of mosquitoes by dusk.
Especially when seniors are living alone, it’s important to ensure safety and security by installing burglar alarms, security cameras, smoke alarms and so on. Windows should have safety bars and grills could be considered on the balcony. Front door security cameras are also effective in enhancing home security. Ensure that all these gadgets are easy to operate.
Incorporating simple design changes that do not hinder the aesthetics instead augment the independence and dignity of seniors is advisable.
Remember to get as much nature and naturalness in your home as these aspects are calming and beautiful and encourage you to enjoy every moment in your space.