Body & Soul: Live with Ease
by Jayne Hobbs
Home adjustments for barrier-free living
In a definition from Medical-Dictionary. TheFreeDictionary.com – barrier-free refers to structural or architectural design that does not impede use by individuals with special needs. Currently, there are more than four million Canadians living with disabilities. Aging is one of the biggest contributors – and as the boomer generation ages, this figure is expected to snowball.
It’s increasingly important to adapt our living space in a barrier-free manner. An annual physical will keep us in tune to our body’s requirements – both physically and mentally. Being aware of changing needs will help us to stay safe, and reduce the risk of falls. Often the self-imposed barriers that we put on ourselves can be can be improved. With adaptations to our homes, we can enjoy our retirement in an environment that’s conducive to our changing needs.
HOME SAFETY TIPS
Each of us has unique needs as it relates to barrier-free living. Accessibility and safety are the main concerns as we age. Our mobility is often affected, making us more prone to falling.
As we enter our elder chapter of life, its often difficult to speculate future needs. If renovating and redesigning your existing home, or purchasing a new home for your retirement, factor in these safety tips.
- DECLUTTER: Remove items that may cause falls, such as scatter rugs, electric cords, bedspreads that may drag on the floor (many falls occur by tripping on bedding in the middle of the night), as well as items on the stairs, stacks of paper and anything that impedes you from moving around safely.
- LIGHTING: Luminous lighting should be placed evenly throughout the house. Include night lights or motion detector lighting in halls, stairways, bathrooms and poorly lit areas.
- FLOORS: Use only slip-resistant throw rugs and bathmats, and avoid high-shine, slippery flooring.
- STAIRS: Consider placing a hand rail on both sides of the stairs, as well as a secure runner if the stairs are slippery. Again, remove any clutter, and when necessary, install an electric lift.
- DOORS: Change doorknobs to lever handles, and use pull-outs on cabinets for easier access.
- GRAB BARS: These are one of the most useful, and safety conscious, items that you can install. Ideal for bathtubs, showers and beside the toilet, they can also be installed anywhere in the house where extra support is needed.
- COUNTERTOPS AND CABINETS: In both the kitchen and bathroom, keep them tidy and only have necessary items within reach. Consider pull-out shelving and adjustable countertops.
- FAUCETS: Touch faucets are fairly new on the market, and are definitely worth investing in.
- BATHROOMS: Walk-in tubs and showers that include seating are highly recommended. Other considerations include, higher toilets or raised safety seats that help with aging knees, as well as slip-resistant flooring, and re-setting the water to a lower temperature in order to prevent scalding.
- ACCESSIBILITY: Transitions from one flooring surface to another should be level, as well as all walkways for easy access. It might be necessary to install a ramp or railings where you enter your home. Likewise, widening door openings may be a future requirement.
Inside your home, everything you need on a regular basis should be easily accessible. Use a mobile phone, and ensure that all important numbers have been programmed in.
These helpful suggestions can be adapted to your existing home environment to help prevent accidents – making aging-in-place a realistic reality.