As you begin to get older, you have to start thinking about how you will manage if it becomes harder for you to look after yourself. Naturally, most people want to stay as independent as they can for as long as they can. For some, it can make more sense to move into assisted living, or even into a care home. But living independently at home is possible for many. One of the biggest obstacles to independent living is the layout and structure of people’s houses. They’re often not designed for people who have problems with mobility, such as wheelchair users or people with arthritis.
Day-to-day tasks such as getting in the bath or shower, going up and down stairs or even going through doorways can become a struggle. But with the right modifications and tools in your home, independent living can become a reality. Instead of leaving your home to move somewhere designed with limited mobility in mind, stay in your home and make improvements. You can adjust everything from your bath to your armchairs. And with some other handy little tools and gadgets, you can do everything for yourself.
Photo by Gary Knight
One of the greatest barriers to staying in a home that isn’t set up for people with mobility issues is the amount of space to move around. When you start to slow down and need help getting around, you can find that your home doesn’t allow movement for more than a person on their own. If you need to use a walking frame, crutches or a wheelchair, doorframes and room layouts can turn out to be a bit of a tight squeeze. You might even be having trouble with spacial awareness and need a bit more room to move about. Wheelchairs can be especially difficult. Although they often fit through the door, there isn’t always enough room for your hands, which is a disaster if you prefer to push yourself. You don’t want to have to have someone help you every time you want to go through the door. What you can do is have your doorways widened. Although this sounds like a big task, it’s easy and quick.
Accessibility is extremely important in the kitchen. When you’re working with hot pans and sharp knives, you don’t want to be struggling to reach the surfaces or move around. If you’re a wheelchair user, you can have countertops, and other surfaces lowered. Doing so makes it easy for you to prepare food, do the dishes and other kitchen tasks. Other barriers you could change or remove include having an island in the middle of the kitchen or a layout that’s too compact. Cooking is one of the main things a lot of people feel helps them to maintain their independence and dignity. It helps them feel that they can provide for themselves. To keep you cooking longer, look into adjustments you can make to your kitchen.
Stairlifts for Independent Living
Getting up the stairs can be a struggle for even the most spritely of people. Even in their younger days, a lot of people find themselves out of puff from just walking up and down the stairs a few times. Later, the climbing the stairs can begin to feel like climbing Mount Everest. One of the most popular pieces of home medical equipment is the stairlift. Installing a stairlift makes getting up and down the stairs as easy as pie. Take your freedom back by adding a stairlift to your home and making the stairs a delight and not a struggle. Just sit back and relax as the stairlift does its work.
Photo by Creative Bathroom Designs
The bathroom might be the most important room when it comes to maintaining your independence and dignity. You want to be able to manage alone for as long as possible, and the best way to do that is to make your bathroom fit around you. There are lots of modifications you can do in your bathroom to make bathing, showering and using the toilet much easier. One of the simplest things to put in is grab rails. Whether you want to alter your bath, shower or toilet, putting handrails in will help you to feel more secure and stable when you’re using the bathroom. If you want to go further, you can change your bathroom suite itself. The risk of slipping in the bath or shower is one that worries a lot of people. But you can relieve your worry with a walk-in tub, a roll-in shower for wheelchair users or a tub-to-shower conversion.
Walk in tubs remove the need to try and climb in and out of the bath. You simply open the door, walk in and fill the tub (remembering to shut the door!) Most come with seats to lower yourself onto, which you can combine with a handrail. You can modify your shower by installing rails, as well as a seat. Often standing for prolonged amounts of time in the shower can be hard, but you don’t have to worry with a modified shower.
Handy Tools and Gadgets
As well as making big and small changes to your home, you can use all kinds of tools and gadgets to help you regain or maintain your freedom at home. From gardening tools to simple pick-up tools, there are lots of things that can help you do everyday tasks. Pick-up tools are great to help you grab things without bending down and you can get tools to help you with everything from turning keys to opening doors. If you have low vision or hearing, lots of aids can help you by providing speech options and sound amplifiers. And of course, there’s the fun things. You shouldn’t have to stop gardening, reading or exercising because you’re getting older. There are lots of tools to help you in the garden, lights and magnifiers to help you read and even devices to help you exercise gently.
Stay in control of your life by fitting your home around you, instead of moving somewhere new. You can keep your independence and your dignity, without having to sacrifice your home or privacy.