What does livability mean to the older adult home? Simply – the ability to remain living in their homes independently. Creating a safe environment for the older senior can prevent falls that can lead to broken bones. One half of falls occur from home hazards of poor lighting, poorly designed spaces, incorrect size and type of walkers, canes, crutches etc.
The AARP Home Livability Checklist offers questions to help older adults to identify whether their homes pass the “livability” test for safety:
- Is there at lease one step-free entrance into the home?
- Does the home have a bedroom, full bath and kitchen on one floor?
- Are the doorways and hallways wide and enough for a wheelchair to pass?
- Does the doorknobs and faucets have lever handles, which are easier to use than rounded knobs?
- Are the kitchen countertops mounted at varying heights so they can be used while standing or seated?
- Can the kitchen and bathroom cabinets and shelves be easily reached?
- Does the bathtub or shower have a nonslip service?
- Are there grab bars in the bathroom, or has the wall been reinforced so that they can be added?
- Are the hallways and staircases well lit?
- Are there secure handrails on both sides of stairways?
- Can lift switches, electrical outlets, and thermostats be reached easily, even when seated?
- Can the windows be opened with minimal effort?
- Keeping our senior citizens safe in their home is important.
According to The MetLife Report on Aging in Place 2.0, there are three tiers of priority modifications:
Priority 1: FALL PREVENTION
- Remove throw rugs, especially in the bathroom.
- Install grab bars and grips in the bathroom.
- Ensure sturdy handrails on both sides of steps.
- Ensure good lighting and switching, especially in stairs, halls and entries.
- Secure or remove carpets at stairs.
- Ensure soft path lighting for nighttime mobility.
Priority 2: ENTRYWAY, EASY MOVEMENT, AND USEOF HOME FEATURES
- Remove (if possible) or reduce the number or height in steps and possibly increase the horizontal depth of steps for easy stepping with both hands on one rail.
- Ensure a clear, no step path to the bedroom and bathroom.
- Rearrange or reposition furniture, entertainment systems, and spaces to ensure easy movement through living spaces.
Priory 3: MORE SUBSTANTIAL REMODELING AND EQUIPMENT
- Install a no-step shower or bath life mechanism, a seated sink, and assistance space at the toilet.
- Install seated or multilevel food-preparation areas.
- Install sun and main protected outdoor areas.
- Ensure backup power sources in case of power outages.
Some home-repair programs are federally funded by the Older Americans Act. Others are fee for service (paid out of pocket), and others are coordinated by volunteer groups. Grants for Remodeling Homes is also an option. These grants are often provided to low-income senior citizens to repair to remodel their homes.
Environmental gerontologist Esther Greenhouse says that “an environment that provides obstacles in functioning will actually hasten the declined of remaining abilities”.
SAFETY is top priority in the homes of older adults. It allows them to live independently for as long as possible – to live their lives with dignity. To wake up, eat, and enjoy their favorite hobbies WHEN they want to.
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