Improving Home Safety and Accessibility for Seniors

Custom bent rail

Demographic changes, like an aging population and the return of the multigenerational household, are transforming living patterns. Home design and construction however has not kept pace and still follows the older pattern of building homes for nuclear families with young children. Such homes are built without any safety features for older adults, who increasingly prefer aging in place rather than moving to a nursing home. Whether they live alone or with their adult children who have moved back to care for them, seniors need safety features like guide rails and wheelchair ramps that can meet accessibility standards.

Demographic changes and new household patterns

Family and household patterns are changing, and housing needs are changing along with them. One of the biggest demographic shifts currently under way is the aging of the boomers, the largest demographic cohort. By 2030, this group will account for 30%, or nearly a third of the U.S. population. Older adults in this group are also increasingly choosing to stay at home, instead of moving to a retirement home.

As well as seniors aging in place, as this option is called, adult children are moving back home to care for elderly parents. They may have children of their own, creating multigenerational households. Home construction has not yet adapted to these trends. In practical terms, this means that homes are still designed and built for young families with children, not seniors. These homes often lack safety and accessibility features like door openers, guide rails and chair lifts for seniors.

Making homes safer for seniors

Some modifications and improvements can make homes safer for seniors and ensure that they meet safety and accessibility standards. For seniors living at home, whether they live alone or with family, falls are the greatest source of injuries. Every year, as many as two million seniors suffer falls which require emergency room visits.

At this age, falls can have serious and lasting consequences. Over half of all falls happen at home. Home improvement projects like adding guide rails in hallways and bathroom grab bars can greatly reduce the risk of falls and serious injuries. Other simple steps like making sure that all rugs are firmly fixed to the floor and that there are no awkward furniture legs to trip over can likewise make it easier for seniors to move around within the house.

Adding accessibility features to homes

As many as 90% of seniors over the age of 65 years want to carry on living in their homes for as long as they can, according to a survey by the AARP and the National Conference of State Legislatures. Wheelchair lifts and ramps and stair lifts can improve mobility and safety for seniors inside and outside the house. These should be installed by professionals to ensure that they meet accessibility standards.

Wheelchair ramps give seniors access to the outdoors as well as a range of activities beyond the house. This allows for a better quality of life, giving them the freedom to go for walks, to engage in gardening or to make trips to the store and to attend cultural and social activities.

As more and more seniors choose to age in place, remaining in their homes for as long as possible, some safety modifications are needed for their homes. Guide rails, bathroom grab bars, chair lifts, and wheelchair ramps can all improve safety and mobility for seniors, indoors and outdoors. These home improvements are best carried out by professionals, so that they meet safety and accessibility standards.

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