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home : health : health May 26, 2018

3/13/2018 6:46:00 PM
A safe home as we age
By Jim Cornelius
News Editor

More and more aging Sisters residents are striving to stay independent and in their own homes as long as possible. And many are living at home with children or other family members.

As we age, day-to-day living at home poses challenges and potential hazards. Some simple modifications can make a home much more livable and a whole lot safer for aging adults.

Chris Patrick of Home Customizations in Sisters worked as a maintenance supervisor at a HUD retirement village, and he is well versed in the needs of an aging population.

"A lot of it revolves around balance and accessibility," he says.

Installing ramps - even if they're not needed for a wheelchair - can make it a lot easier to get in and out of the house. And a ramp mitigates the tripping hazard of a step or a threshold. Installing handrails in strategic places makes the house safer as a senior's balance starts to fade. The bathroom is always a place of potential danger. Grab-bars are an essential safety item, and Patrick recommends considering using a bench and a hand-held shower unit in the shower to minimize the potential for a slip and a fall.

And installing non-slip surfaces inside and outside the house is a small precaution that can prevent a disastrous fall.

Scott Stoery, Builder of Special Spaces, has a particular interest in helping aging adults stay independent - and safe.

"One of the key things we are talking about is 'be safe at home,'" he says.

Stoery emphasizes the importance of good lighting in hallways and rooms. The ability to see well can mitigate hazards. Motion sensors for outdoor lighting create both extra security and protection against tripping in the dark. Eliminate loose area rugs and extension cords that can be tripped on, and make sure your trash and recycling cans are in a protected area where ice doesn't form.

Installing a pet door can minimize the need to let a pet in and out of the house at night, which can be safer and less stressful for the pet owner.

Stoery notes that many aging adults like having a deck - but a smaller one, that is readily accessible, with comfortable seating and appropriate enclosures or screening. He says that he has actually been asked to reduce deck size to make things more comfortable for a client.

Stoery also notes that organization can help improve safety. Place frequently used objects in cabinets and drawers that don't require climbing on a stool or bending down to a low cabinet. And baskets for essential items can avoid clutter that can pose a hazard.

Ed Cook of 3 Sisters and Cook Contractor notes that many companies now make step-in showers and bathtubs specifically for people with impaired movement. These are much safer than a tub or shower that requires you to step up and in. He, too, recommends creating non-slip surfaces and installing small ramps to make navigating both indoors and outdoors easier and safer.

He advises paying attention to details, like the transition between a carpet and a hard floor surface. Such transition points are tripping hazards and should be modified or eliminated.

He recommends enlarging doorways for wheelchair access.

Cook notes that everything should be tailored to meet specific requirements.

"Each individual is going to have an individual need," he observes. "There's some people who need more at 40 than some people at 70."

While some very basic handyman projects can make your home and yard much safer to navigate, there's one more element that is critical both to safety and happiness, according to Scott Stoery.

"Another big thing is connecting with neighbors," he says.

If your neighbors know you and you them, deviations from routine can trigger a check-in on your well-being.

"This is about the Western spirit," Stoery says. "It's about being aware but not being nosy."

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