Improve Home Access and Mobility For Seniors – Tune Up Your Doors!

Creating an accessible home with doors and doorwaysAre the doors in your home sticky, narrow or just plain unwieldy? For most of us, this can be a big annoyance. However, for seniors, it can be a significant impediment to mobility in the home.

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to improve the situation and make daily life a little easier.

Here are some ideas:

Door Knobs - Consider replacing door knobs with door levers. These are simply easier for seniors to open than a traditional round door knob. Internal door hardware is affordable and relatively easy to replace. Entry door locksets are more expensive, but won’t necessarily break the bank if you shop around.

Misaligned Doors - When doors are out of alignment, they can rub on the frame and become difficult to open and close. There are a few quick tricks you can try before you resort to re-framing the door.

  • If the problem is very minor, you can sometimes just sand the edge of the door that is rubbing. This is permanent and is not recommended if the problem is seasonal or if too much material must be removed.
  • Use shims to move the upper or lower hinge out from the door frame slightly. While you may be able to use cardboard or washers to accomplish this, it’s probably better to purchase door shims that are specifically designed for this purpose.
  • Another trick is to slightly bend one or both of the door hinge knuckles. Crescent wrenches are frequently used for this, but there are now knuckle bender tools to make it easier.

Narrow Doorways - Some doorways are too narrow to provide access for a walker or wheelchair. You have a few options:

  • ‘Swing clear’ hinges are a great way to improve access. As the name implies, these hinges allow the door to swing completely out of the door opening. In some cases, this can add a couple inches of badly needed clearance.
  • If you don’t need to close that particular door, consider removing the door and hinge altogether. You can also remove the innermost strip of trim that functions as a door stop. If the doorway needs to be even wider, you can try removing the entire door frame and trimming out the opening with thin sheet-rock.
  • Depending on the location in your home and the wall framing surrounding the door, you may be able to replace the existing door with a wider pre-hung door. While this may not be a DIY job, a good contractor can probably do it for a reasonable price.

Garage Doors - Not only can garage doors be difficult to open and close, they can be downright hazardous for some seniors. While most problems with garage doors can be easily fixed, it is recommended that you hire a licensed contractor for significant improvements. Garage door springs are dangerous to work with and some municipalities may even require building permits.

  • If you have a slab garage door, check into getting a roll-up door. These should be much safer and easier for seniors to manage.
  • Remove dirt and debris from the garage door and the areas around it.
  • Lubricate your door hardware. If you are unsure of the best type, look for a lubricant specifically labeled for garage door hardware.
  • Replace your garage door springs. If the springs are old, they may not be functioning as well as they should. They could also be dangerous in the event of a failure.
  • If you don’t have one already, consider purchasing an automatic garage door opener. The quality of these continues to improve and they are more affordable than ever.

Sliding Doors - Sliding doors are inherently more difficult to open than swinging doors and can be even more of a challenge for seniors. These generally require more ongoing maintenance to function smoothly.

  • Clean out the tracks regularly.
  • Lubricate moving parts.
  • Although it can be tricky, many sliding doors have screws to adjust alignment. If needed, replacement parts are generally available as well.
  • Consider replacing a sliding door with a pair of swinging French doors. Because the sliding door opening is typically wide, replacement with French doors is generally easier than many other installations.

Keyless Entry Systems - Some seniors have difficulties when using keys. Door locks with combination buttons and remote key fobs are now available. Some of these can even be activated by other remote devices such as cell phones or security systems.

While these are all great improvements for the doors themselves, don’t forget to address the lighting near your doorways. For example, motion detectors can automatically turn on the lights when approaching the door. This will free up both hands for opening the door, carrying groceries or even stability. Now all you need is a friendly welcome mat!

Scooters for Seniors- What You Need To Know

There is a lot of marketing material out there (online AND in radio/TV/print) telling us about scooters for seniors, and how easy it is to acquire one.  The fact is that scooters for seniors ARE easy to get your hands on… especially if you have $800-$2,900 to spend today!  Given that we’ve had great feedback on our posts entitled “Medical Alert Systems – The Top 10 Questions you Should Ask Before Buying” and our post entitled “Senior Friendly Cell Phones – What You Need To Know Today“, we thought we’d  come up with another Top 10 List… This one focused on “The Top 10 Questions to Ask When Evaluating Scooters for Seniors“.

Remember, there’s a lot to get to know before purchasing a mobility scooter, and this should only be used as an initial list of questions to consider.  Scooters aren’t for everybody, and some of them can be downright dangerous (even the simplest to operate).   In a subsequent article, we’ll showcase many of the more popular scooter models available today, and the features/benefits of each.

The Top 10 Questions to Ask When Evaluating Scooters for Seniors

10.  Will the mobility scooter be used primarily indoors, outdoors or both?  There is a lot to this question, and understanding where the user needs mobility-assistance will determine many factors about the models to consider.  For example, a scooter for (primarily) indoor use doesn’t need to be as durable as many of the outdoor models.  Most of the indoor models can get away with 3 wheels (one leading and two trailing).  A single leading wheel makes the scooter easier to steer, and lighter too.  Outdoor scooters are usually heavier, more sturdy, have more “range” under the hood (ok in the box), and can be a bit more expensive.The Pride gogo mobility scooter

9.  Are you paying cash for the mobility scooter, or are you hoping Medicare will pick up the cost?  Many manufacturers and marketers tout that mobility scooters for seniors can be paid for by Medicare (if you qualify for Medicare).  There are stipulations to this strategy however.  In most cases, your physician will need to “prescribe” and/or recommend a mobility aid/scooter for you with appropriate documentations.

8.  Do you require a new model OR would a used (reconditioned) scooter do the job?  There are great discounts to be had on used and/or reconditioned mobility scooters.  A scan of “mobility scooters” in Craigs List showed over 20 scooters for sale in the Portland, Oregon area in the first 2 weeks of January alone!  Scooters are usually well maintained by their owner/operators, which makes buying a used scooter a wise choice if you’re spending your own money.

7.  Do you (or someone you know) have the means to transport your scooter if you intend on using it outside the home?  The larger grocery chains usually have mobility scooters available for people that need assistance, but some do not.  If you plan on taking your scooter with you, you need ample space in your vehicle (like a mini-van) AND someone to muscle it in and out for you.  Van lifts are obviously the best alternative, but you need to think about transport as it relates to using a scooter away from home.

6.  How much do you plan on spending on your mobility scooter?  For reasons mentioned above, there is a wide range in prices for mobility scooters for seniors.  Pricing for a new mobility scooter ranges from $750 on the low end up to $4,500 on the high end.  Features, durability, and quality raise the price points considerably.

5.  Have you found any ratings and reviews for mobility scooters?  Here at The Senior List we plan on showcasing many of the popular models, so that our users can provide feedback on senior-friendly-scooters.  Until then, you can check out Amazon.com on many popular models today.  You can also check with the manufacturers, or the sales outlet (but you might not be getting unbiased feedback.  Just keep that in mind.)

Mobility Scooter for Seniors4. Is the scooter comfortable to sit in?  Now this may seem obvious, but if you plan on purchasing online, make sure you find that model locally and take it for a spin.  Mobility Scooters are designed to be comfortable, but I can tell you from experience that people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes!  Leg room is a big consideration when evaluating the comfort of a mobility scooter.  Another consideration is that we all sit a bit differently!  My posture isn’t perfect so I may sit differently than the next person.  Test drive your mobility scooter… you’ll be glad you did.

3. What is the maximum load weight?  Load weight refers to all of the weight-bearing-stress being placed on (or in) the scooter and any one time.  Individuals that are overweight, or need to carry heavy objects with them need to understand and answer these questions when evaluating mobility options.

2.  What safety features and/or accessories come standard with my purchase?  You don’t want to spend $2,000 on a new scooter only to find out you need to purchase arm rests as accessories… (enough said).

1.  What kind of warranty comes with my purchase?  Make sure you understand the warranty inside and out.  Service can be expensive on mobility devices (not to mention a pain in the posterior).  Know your rights upfront.