Nearly 90% of seniors 65+ prefer to live at home before considering a retirement or assisted living community for reasons including economics, the stress of moving, the fear of losing independence, emotional ties to the family home, and fear of the unknown.
Expert on aging Lisa Cini provides tips to live not only independently, but energetically with increased safety, including aids to mobility, lighting effectiveness, cooking safety, bathroom safety and more.
“Thanks to medical advancements, exercise and healthy eating, seniors are far healthier and living longer and more independently,” says Cini. “Small, simple and cost-effective modifications can make a big difference in improved safety, hearing, mobility, sight and memory.”
Independent living updates include:
- Adjust the heights of sinks, stoves, washers & dryers, showers, shelving, and cabinets.
- Declutter and organize trailing electrical wires to avoid slips and trips.
- Add banisters and check for looseness on stairs, railings and decks.
- Light up dark hallways and closets with motion-sensor lights to prevent falls.
- Install handrails/grab bars by the toilet and in the shower to stay steady.
- Get tech: There’s a bevy of wearable technology for improved mobility, heart monitoring with the touch of a finger, memory assistance, companionship, fitness and mobility; and new, unobtrusive vision and hearing aids that can translate 27 languages, detect falls, connect to your phone, and can even be found by GPS tracking when you can’t remember where it is. Home security systems can protect against theft and property damage, provide motion sensing lights to detect intruders, and provide welcome hall way lighting. Tablets and portable screens allow you to send photos, videos and have live chats with family and friends
- Install an automatic stove shutoff device to provide peace of mind and protection when cooking is forgotten or left unattended. It’s an easy way to prevent a possible fire and save dinner, too.
- Make flooring safe. Make sure there are rugs on polished floor surfaces. Invest in anti-slip tiles for bathrooms and kitchens to avoid sliding on water spills. Rugs should have anti-slip fixtures underneath to avoid slipping. Consider a contrasting color for steps and rails to make them easier to see. And, since your feet spend so much time on the floor, wear well-fitting shoes and slippers. Avoid flip-flops as they lead to trips.
- Keep things within reach. Stretching and balancing on step ladders to get things on high shelves or in awkward places leads to falls. So, keep things you use frequently in an easy-to-reach place. Place a phone within easy reach for an emergency, and set up speed-dial for favorite contacts.
- Make the garden safe. Clear moss and old leaves from the paths to minimize the risk of slipping. When it is icy, make sure you have some grit and someone to clear your paths. Avoid too many pots and ornaments, as they are easy to trip over. Install lighting so you can see your way along paths in the dark. Remember that you don’t have to do all the work in the garden or house; you can get help from others to do the heavier jobs, which lessens your risk of falling.
If a retirement or assisted living community is the best choice, new facilities are cropping up to provide independence for residents. For example, Mosaic Design Studio’s recently completed assisted living facility, YourLife of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, was designed to provide many options for residents from décor and dining to activities, encouraging multi-generational interaction, integrating technologies that facilitate independence, and providing an atmosphere that feels like home – and maybe even better.
“The first step to making the right choices is knowing that for most of us there are choices,” says Cini. “Follow that with an honest assessment of your health, finances, life preferences, and the viable options, and the world of possibilities may open wide.”
Lisa Cini is an award-winning senior living architect, author, speaker, and President and CEO of Mosaic Design Studio, which applies the latest thinking and technology to the design of senior living communities, assisted living facilities, and memory care facilities throughout the country.