“Forever Home” on a Budget, Starts with Common Sense

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So if 89% of those polled by AARP favor “Aging-In-Place” as a first priority and preference, but we are still near the bottom of a long and slow recovery in the real estate market that in some areas depreciated homes upwards of 30% in value 4-5 years ago, what are the best ways we can still think about safely staying in our own homes longer as we get up in age?

Each year, thousands of older Americans fall at home. Many of them are seriously injured, and some are disabled. In 2002, more than 12,800 people over age 65 died and 1.6 million were treated in emergency departments because of falls.  1/3 of people over 65 years old fall each year.  1/2 of those falls are recurrent.  1 in 10 falls results in serious injury or death.  87% of elder fractures are due to falls.  (More on fall statistics in the 65+ year old sector can be found here).

Falls are often due to hazards that are easy to overlook but easy to fix.

We all get busy with our own lives, and we go about our daily routine without ever taking a moment to look down from the 50,000 foot level.  We are busy staring at the one tree in front of us in that “to do list priorities” forest that is today, tomorrow, and the next day after that.  So let’s zoom out, back up, take a deep breathe, and LOOK AROUND in our own home.  But first, please put on your COMMON SENSE glasses, the one’s with the tint of “Oh, well THAT’s OBVIOUS” in the lenses.

A Low (or NO) Cost and Common Sense Review of your HOME:

1) Furniture Layout:  Is the path in your home un-necessarily circuitous to get through and around the pieces of furniture?  Are there furniture legs and arms that stick out into the easiest route of travel through the home?  Fix it.  Make moving around in your home a clear, wide, and intuitive path.

2) Rugs:  Loose rugs are one of the top culprits to elder falls.  They love to decorate, and they love their small memory and collection items, we know that.  But that little 24″x42″ rug that she got on a trip to Maine in the 70’s that lays in front of the kitchen sink or just inside the entry door can be the end of living at home, if we aren’t careful and aware.  “Your favorite THROW, has GOT TO GO!”

3) Drop Zones: Ask my wife about where she finds things of mine when I’m on a deadline or otherwise “head down” and distracted.  I leave a trail of “set downs”, shoes on the stairs, planner on the dining room table, keys and wallet  on the window sill by the front door… you get the idea.  We all do it, and so do our parents.  The difference is that if they leave the pile of read sections of the newspaper on the 3rd step of the stairs for the next time they go down to the garage, it could be forgotten, and send them directly from the 3rd step to the bottom step.  That minor oversight could turn a trip to the recycling bin into a trip to the E.R. and surgery room.  Pick up and put up your things so they aren’t in your walking spaces and routes of travel.

4) Stairs & Thresholds:  Since we are talking “Better on a Budget”, I won’t go into it here about how much cheaper a stair chair or even an elevator in your home is vs. a slip/fall and cost of moving into assisted living or a nursing home for the months/years ahead (Just know that IS TRUE).  Here I want to think maintenance and upkeep.  Stairs with carpets are notorious for coming loose over time.  The angle and speed the installers staple into the treads and riser corners (especially the back interior corner) lead to attachments that aren’t fully sunken in and secure.  A loosening carpet can cause your next step to miss a stair tread, and you’d be at the bottom sooner than you intended.  Wood stairs are slippery to many of the warm socks and slippers older folks like to wear for warmth, and that can be a safety issue as well.  Keep your stair carpet tightly affixed.

5) Floors & Moisture:  Overly-smooth floor finishes (hardwoods, tile) and “wet rooms” are also regular culprits to serious injury falls in older Americans.  This can be not just due to the occupant, but sometime also the caregiver that’s trying to help the older person with their ADL’s (Activities of Daily Living).  Keeping your floor areas clear, and applications to the floor surfaces that help create some “grit” for traction where floor areas get wet, are crucial to keep us safe in our home as we bathe and get ready in the bathroom and laundry areas.

6) Reaching & Stability:  Are you using things in your upper kitchen cabinets that you need daily or weekly?  MOVE THEM DOWN.  There is a “cost” alternative, which is equipment to retrofit your upper cabinets to come out and down to the user, but you can find more on that in our winter newsletter).  Getting someone to help you re-organize your kitchen based on what you use most, so you aren’t reaching above your head or using a step stool as often, can go a long way to a longer and safer life at home.

Safety in your home goes a very long way toward successful Aging-In-Place.  There are a multitude of psychological benefits to making your home safe as well.  It makes you feel IN CONTROL.  It makes you feel EMPOWERED.  Taking charge of your future, and how you want your home to work and function for how you specifically use your own space is a KEY to the success of making your house your “Forever Home” for Aging-In-Place successfully.

Most of these things can be found in other Older American resource pages on the internet, such as Cornell’s Environmental Geriatrics site.  There are plenty of great links and articles that come out every day in the news, and you can stay in touch with it all by subscribing to our online “Empowering The Mature Mind” daily newspaper, or by going to our Facebook page and clicking LIKE to get all of our posts on making your “second half” the best it can be, including great educational resources and information for making your home your “forever home” for successful Aging-In-Place.  If you need more specific and personal solutions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us! 

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