Throughout our lives, we go through various stages which require us to adapt and adjust to changing needs. We may not remember when we went through the crawling-before-walking stage; but most women, for example, remember menopause very well and the need for finding hormonal balance. As changes progress and we develop physical conditions and limitations in our 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond, modifications to our home are often necessary.
At the Discovery Village At Melbourne, a southern Florida retirement community, our focus is providing comfortable, safe, and accessible environments for all seniors. We understand the various aspects of housing needs for seniors and design our dwellings with those needs in mind. The primary factors which lead an elderly person to move or make changes to their environment are physical and medical needs. A stroke or heart attack may cause a sudden need for household changes. More gradual conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, require an increasing level of care over time. Normal activities of daily living may become very difficult, including:
- Caring for pets
Although the elderly may experience new physical limitations, independent living may still be possible. All that may be required is to make the right adjustments to the home environment. Some needed modifications are simple and others are more significant, but both types are common.
A “home modification” is a physical change made to a home for the purpose of accommodating the changing needs of an elderly or disabled person. Financial assistance from the government may be available. There are many times when seniors prefer to remain in their homes but are forced to stay in a nursing home because their own residence is no longer a safe environment.
In advanced age, our physical strength can diminish, our mobility may be limited, and functions which were once simple become difficult. An example of a simple home modification is switching out water faucet handles from knobs to levers. Some other changes that may be needed include:
- Rails and grab bars may need to be installed in hallways and bathrooms, to improve mobility and help prevent falls.
- Stair lifts, which are also referred to as lift chairs and stair glides, may need to be installed.
- Glide-out shelves are also called roll-out or pull-out shelves, and they make it possible to easily access deep storage spaces for food, clothing, bathroom supplies, and other items.
- Lighting may need to be modified in the home so that there is increased visibility and security.
- Carpeting, baseboards, and other parts of the interior may need to be removed in order to improve wheelchair mobility.
- Doorways and hallways may need to be widened to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers.
- For people who are unable to walk on stairs, wheelchair ramps may need to be installed.
- Light fixtures need to be easy to use, which may require switching to oversized light switches.
- A seated bathtub or walk-in tub may need to be installed; these are sometimes wheelchair accessible.
- For some seniors, automated or push-button doors may be needed.
- An elevated toilet or toilet seat makes it easier and less strenuous to get on and off.
- Needs for using technology also change with age. Large-screen monitors and oversized keyboards may be needed.
- Doorknobs can be difficult for those who suffer from arthritis or who lack strength. Switch out door knobs for levers.
- Add a bedrail to help with sitting up and to prevent falling out of bed.
Small Changes to the Home
Not all alterations to a household are drastic. There are many small, less expensive changes that can help make a home safer for the elderly, including the following:
- Non-skid or tractions strips, which are usually installed in bathrooms but should be used wherever the floor is slippery or hazardous, such as on staircases and in kitchens.
- Use transfer benches to get in and out of tubs, showers, and wheelchairs with little or no help.
- Put risers on the bed so that it is higher and easier to get in and out of, if the bed is too low.
- Install climate controls with large digital displays or remote control.
- Provide drinking cups with two handles.
- Equip the kitchen with assistive openers for jars and bottles.
- Provide a stool in the kitchen so that work can be done sitting.
- Use a trolley or cart to make it easier to move food and drinks from kitchen to dining area and back.
Seniors oftentimes struggle with acknowledging that adjustments in the home are indeed needed. It can help to talk things out with family members, be open to new possibilities, and ease into the process in a way that you are comfortable with. Most importantly, be patient with yourself. All of our residents at southern Florida retirement community Discovery Village At Melbourne are encouraged to ask for any help needed, without hesitation.
Discovery Village At Melbourne offers a variety of senior living programs to keep seniors healthy and active. Learn about our senior living options and amenities today when you contact us at 321.320.6933.