Seniors know there is no place like home. That’s why an estimated 71 percent of people want to age in place as they enter their twilight years. Of course, in order to stay in their home, safety should be taken into consideration. The little household accidents that don’t mean much when you are younger can have serious health implications when they happen to a person over 65. As we age, our bodies grow frailer while our reflexes slow down. An unexpected fall can lead to significant injuries that can impede a person’s ability to care for themselves. A fall can even be fatal for a senior. Fortunately, there are things people can do to make their homes safer, prevent accidents, and facilitate aging in place for retirees over the age of 65.
Clean It Out
One of the best ways to make a home accessible for seniors is by cleaning out all the excess junk and removing unnecessary furnishings — especially low-profile ones like rugs, ottomans, and coffee tables that can pose a risk for tripping. Here’s a helpful strategy for decluttering: If the home burned down and the person lost everything, what would they replace as soon as possible? Make a home inventory — anything that the person could get by without much notice should be trashed, donated, or sold.
An easy place to start cleaning is the closet. As we age, we tend to favor more comfortable clothing options that are easy to get on and off at the beginning and end of each day. Go through and clean out formal outfits, things that are ill-fitting, and all those garments they’ve held on to for too many years. Family members and friends can come by and pick out the best of the vintage gems. Everything else can be sold, donated, recycled, or repurposed. Once you have the closet cleaned out, move on to other areas of the house until they only have the things they need to live comfortably day-to-day.
Making a house safe for aging in place may take a significant investment in renovations. For instance, if the home has steps and stairs, safety ramps need to be installed so that seniors can safely climb up and down unencumbered. If their house has two stories, seniors with mobility aids may need a residential chair lift in order to get both up and downstairs.
Another area of the house that will need updates is the bathroom. Bathrooms are the most dangerous part of the house. Facilitate safe bathing by installing a shower bench and extendable showerhead. These also make it easier for seniors to maintain their modesty when bathed by a caregiver should the need arise. Grab bars by the toilet, tub, and sink are also helpful when it comes to getting up and down while in this very important room. It may also be helpful to install a slip-proof flooring that reduces their chances of falling.
Sometimes, the houses where people raise their families are not the best options for aging in place after all. It may be easier to simply move to another home that is smaller and already outfitted with accessibility features. Depending on how much their current home is worth, it can even be more cost-efficient than doing renovations. Use online filters to help search for accessible homes for sale in your area. Make a checklist of all the things the retiree would like in their home, and use that list to weed out houses that do not fit the criteria.
After you’ve found a house that fits your needs and lifestyle, it’s time to search for a home loan that works best for your finances. For instance, many people look into conventional mortgages due to the benefits they provide, which include the choice between adjustable and fixed-rate loans and the ability to avoid additional mortgage insurance payments by putting 20 percent down at closing. However, keep in mind that you’ll need a good credit score (680 in most cases) and a debt-to-income that’s less than 45 percent to qualify. Some people opt to wait until they can meet these criteria so they can reap the benefits conventional loans offer.
Seniors who wish to age in place must prepare their homes for safe living. Start by clearing out clutter and only keeping the necessities in the home. Safety renovations such as ramps and shower benches can prevent accidents and injury. However, sometimes it makes more sense to simply downsize and move to a home that is already accessible.
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