Your ability to effectively move around in your home and gain access to rooms, closets, cabinets, counters, and sinks will determine your success and satisfaction with aging in place. You need to plan now and begin implementing modifications for when you begin to require assistance walking or standing, or when you begin using an assistance device, such as a walker, wheelchair, or even a power chair. Even minor modifications can improve your quality of life.
Flooring surfaces should not be slippery, and they should be easy to use with an assistance device if necessary. Many functional and visually appealing options exist. A few flooring items to consider are described below:
- Non-slip tile, low-pile carpet or textured vinyl are reasonable choices.
- Some cork floor covering options are available that feel good on the feet and can help prevent slipping.
- If you want to keep your existing tile or stone floor, you may want to apply a texture to help prevent slipping.
- If you install floor tile, choose smaller rather than larger ones. The closer seams reduce the chance of slipping.
- Opt for low-glare floor covering.
- Make sure the flooring you select is easy to clean and maintain.
All carpet and flooring needs to be kept in good condition. Ripped flooring or loose carpet can increase your fall risk. Consider replacing any worn carpeting with a safer low- pile style or alternate floor covering.
Avoid using throw rugs; they are a trip hazard. If you feel you must have one or more throw rugs, make sure each rug has low pile and consider using anti-slip rug tape around the entire outer edge to secure each rug to the floor.
Access and Maneuverability
Having adequate clearance to move around furniture to be able to exit quickly in case of emergency is an important feature for each room. Doorways need to be a minimum of 32 inches wide, with 36-inch clearance preferred. You should also have adequate space around furniture, closets, cabinets, counters, sinks, toilets, showers and tubs to accommodate the use of wheelchairs and walkers.
You need clear pathways into and through each room of your home for safe passage, especially at night. To make work areas accessible to everyone, including those in wheelchairs, you need 42- to 48-inch pathways. Properly arranging furniture and clearing clutter, throw rugs and other items that block walking paths reduces the likelihood of tripping and falling.
Steps and Staircases
Stairs become more dangerous as your leg strength diminishes or you start to encounter issues with your balance. Install a handrail on each stairwell and near steps. Put different colored edges on each step. At some point, you may need to install a stairlift or elevator.
Stairlifts involve a track installed on the wall leading up your stairway. A motor moves a chair up and down along the track, transporting a person sitting in the chair from one floor of the home to the other. Exercise care when evaluating stairlifts. Some chairs cannot always be used as intended because physical impairments prevent people from being able to get on and off them.
An elevator is the only sure way to know that you will be able to reach upper floors. In a newly built house, you can prepare for a future elevator by constructing a shaft with a temporary middle floor that you use now as closet space on both levels. Later, the temporary floor can be removed from within the shaft and the elevator installed. A builder, with input from an elevator company, can build this feature into a multi-level new construction home. Modifying existing homes may take a little more effort and imagination.
Easy opening doors and drawers, and adjustable shelves
Make all interior and exterior doors, cabinet doors, drawers, and closet doors accessible by changing hardware and the way you open them. All door handles should be changed from standard door knobs to lever handles. All cabinet doors and drawers should have “D” type pulls to allow people of all abilities to more easily open and close them.
Pocket doors that slide into the wall rather than swinging out can allow more room for maneuvering.
Open cabinets and shelves, and slide-out shelves from within cabinets make access and reachability easier and reduce the strain from bending and stooping. Adding pull-down shelves for the overhead cabinets and installing an adjustable shelving system helps to reduce overhead reaching. Installing roll-out shelves in lower cabinets can greatly reduce the strain of bending over to reach items in the back.
Although it is not a home modification, if you are not able to alter some cabinets or shelves, you may want to get a hand grabber device to help you with picking up and reaching items and reduce the amount of bending or stretching required.
To give you a better idea of what is available in each category of Access and Maneuverability, shown below are three examples of each type of Access and Maneuverability item described on this page. I have selected examples from higher consumer-rated Access and Maneuverability items offered on Amazon. Click the picture of the item or the “Buy Now” button below the description to read more about each item shown.
Note: Despite the name, the “Buy Now” button does not commit you to buy. It is just a link to information. If you happen to choose to buy any item you see below, or any other item you see while on the Amazon site, you can, of course, but will need to enter payment-method information in order to complete a purchase. So browse and research without worry that you are committing to buy anything by clicking a Buy Now button below.
Universal Stair Lift – 350lb Capacity – Folds Flat to Wall – Includes Warranty
Universal Stair Lift
– MADE IN AMERICA! 3 Safety Mechanisms. Wireless Remote. 350lb Capacity. Warranty
Stair Lift w/ Lifetime Warranty on Motor & Drivetrain
Custom Cut Stair Lift to Fit your Staircase
– ROCKER CONTROLS with constant-pressure functionality stop the lift immediately if the control is released Mounts to the stairs (not the wall) on either side of staircase
**This product will be custom cut to fit your staircase. Because this is a “Custom Made” product – it is NOT returnable.
Harmar Outdoor Stair lift 350-OD
Custom Fit – Out Doors Stair Lift – Attaches to Stairs, not Wall
Weather-proofed to withstand the elements. Harmar’s Outdoor Stair Lift is engineered with a durable extruded aluminum track and marine-grade vinyl seating to handle rain, wind, snow, and temperatures from 0° to 125° degrees. Includes header, internal chassis, and large weatherproof covers for even more protection. **This product will be custom cut to fit your staircase. Because this is a “Custom Made” product – it is NOT returnable. **Please provide the following Information – length of staircase (see images), mounted on the left or right as you look UP the steps, any obstructions at top or bottom, landing, hallway or door at the top of the steps? ***Customer MUST provide floor to floor diagonal measurement of staircase** YOU WILL BE CONTACTED AFTER YOUR ORDER IS PLACED TO GET YOUR MEASUREMENTS, ORIENTATION, AND ANY OBSTRUCTIONS. We can also assist with your installation or additional questions.
– WEATHERPROOF COVER: Header cover, internal chassis cover and a large weatherproof cover included
Below are some higher consumer-rated Flooring options that you may like.
Prairie View Industries TH1032 Threshold Ramp, 10 x 32 Inch
Prairie View Industries Threshold Ramp 2″ Rise
PVI manufactures high quality ramps available on the market today. We are proud to say our product lines are Made in the USA.
Designed for Doorways that Swing In
– FOR SMALL THRESHOLDS: Great for transitioning doorways and thresholds. These ramps are made for small thresholds and are to be attached to the edge of the door threshold
– 600 lb. WEIGHT CAPACITY. Dimensions: 10 inch L x 32 inch W
– ANTI-SLIP, HIGH TRACTION SURFACE. Holes punched in top corners for easy installation. Hardware provided to secure ramp to surface.
– MADE OF LIGHTWEIGHT, DURABLE ALUMINUM. Limited Lifetime Warranty
NYOrtho Bedside Foldable Floor Mats for Elderly – Handicap Non-Slip Beveled Edge Fall Protection Fallshield
NYOrtho FALLSHIELD Bedside Fall Safety Mat:
Providing bedside protection for those at risk of falling.
The FALLSHIELD bedside fall mat is constructed with a high-density, high-impact absorbing molded foam rubber.
The FALLSHIELD comes in a standard straight bedside mat or in a BI-FOLD version that makes a great bedside floor safety mat even more convenient – easier to store under the bed or in a closet.
A durable, slip-resistant rubber backing secures the mat in place on any floor surface including wood, tile or carpet. Attention to detail and to the needs of our customers, this bedside safety mat is designed with a textured cover that provides safe and secure footing for loved ones, patients and caregivers. Beveled outer edges provide easy access for wheelchairs and other mobility aids, thus also minimizing tripping hazards.
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