Planning ahead on renovations can help aging in place

Published: 6/3/2019 9:32:42 AM

For many people, the home they live in now is the home they intend to stay in, for better or for worse – much like a marriage – until death do they part. But while New England is blessed with many beautiful colonial homes, often times these historic homes, or even homes built before 2010, were merely not outfitted to make aging-in-place possible.

For those who intend to remain in their homes throughout their life, taking a good look around your home now, when you’re better able, is essential.

Narrow doorways, steep staircases, second floor-only bathrooms and doors with knobs can go from being a quirky architectural feature to a barrier to aging in the home that you love. Many homes have stairs that lead to bedrooms, leaving those with mobility issues stranded on the wrong floor. Often a den, office or other downstairs room could be turned into a bedroom to allow for single floor living.

Keep safety first in your mind as you assess your home. How can you stay safe and cook, bathe and enjoy your life if your strength and mobility decrease, hearing or eyesight are affected or you are no longer able to drive? Considering how your home can be modified to address those potential issues, and then building an action plan to address them, is key to being successful at aging in place.

Items such as grab bars in showers or lever style door handles are inexpensive ways to address some of these. Other needs such as ramps into the home or installing a bathroom on the first floor may be more expensive. Identifying what the needs of your home are now, will allow you to make those changes at your own pace. Waiting until those issues are already hindering you will cause stress and expense and may make staying in your home impossible.

A visit from a physical or occupational therapist for a home safety evaluation is an excellent way to identify some of these issues, and they are trained to offer a multitude of solutions for mobility and comfort. You would need to speak with your health care provider to see if you qualify and get a referral. For those who do qualify, this kind of assessment could be available to you through a visiting nurse association such as Franklin VNA & Hospice. \

They say home is where the heart is, and an evaluation of your space to ensure that you can age in place there will help keep it that way.

(The third of a  five-part series from Franklin VNA & Hospice looking at what it means to age in modern times and the steps we should take to make that process progress a little more gently.)

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