By Rachel Reynolds
What would make your home work better for you? There are many tools available to help seniors age in place in their homes, because home is indeed where the heart is, as well as where cherished memories, dignity, and optimism reside.
Independent aging tools can range from home building modifications, installing smart technology, scheduling meal delivery and house cleaning, and improving lighting, among other things. The key to making successful home modifications is to consult an occupational therapist up front and create a comprehensive plan rather than making changes as needs arise.
“There are a wide range of smart home products that can be useful for both the senior and their caregiver,” says Carrie Morgeson, a licensed occupational therapist and co-owner of Capable Living LLC, a company that evaluates homes and solves accessibility and safety issues. “Options for successful aging in place can be simple things like fall-proofing your home and moving items around to allow for easier access to frequently used items.”
Morgeson says there’s no one-size-fits-all independent aging plan, and that each plan should be customized to the needs of an individual and his or her caregiver. She also insists that age-enabling a home can be beautiful and seamless without having an institutional look.
Some of the home products they recommend are fall alert systems and voice-operated virtual assistants like Alexa or Echo. Other simple tools include automated light sensors that turn on when motion is detected. These are especially helpful at night when people get up to go to the bathroom. If there are memory impairment concerns, automatic shut-off switches for the stove and oven are ideal.
In the bathroom, grab bars, non-skid floors, and bright lighting may help, as Morgeson says accessing the shower and getting on and off the toilet are common obstacles. Preserving a person’s dignity is important, and solutions such as bidet seats and caregiver half doors for a shower area are also available to assist with hygiene.
“Other options are more in-depth such as remodeling the home to install a walk-in shower or moving a bathroom, bedroom, or laundry area to the main floor,” she says.