There is no denying that the U.S. population is aging. In fact, it’s estimated that there will be close to 72 million people over the age of 65 by 2030, representing 20 percent of the entire population.
Americans are living longer than previous generations and many of these older adults would like to live in their own homes for as long as they can. These seniors hope to “age in place,” a term used by AARP to describe a person’s ability to age safely in their residence and community of choice while maintaining their dignity and quality of life.
However, it’s important to consider how you or a loved one might age in place before it is no longer an option. Preparing your home to ensure that changing needs are met and wishes are honored can start long before one is considered a “senior citizen.”
“One of the first things we ask people when we meet with them is whether their home is currently safe and will continue to be safe for them as they age,” says Claire Sigal, Sharp Home Health senior specialist. “Our goal is to help them identify and address any safety issues while honoring their personal needs and wishes so that they can move around safely and enjoy living in their home for as long as they’d like.”
The kitchen is often thought of as the heart of a home and is an important room to consider. Sigal says that she and her Sharp Home Health colleagues not only look at whether a person can prepare meals in their kitchen, but also if he or she can safely move about in it without risk of falling or injury.
She and other home health professionals will usually ask the following questions about the kitchen:
- Is the entryway into the kitchen at least 36 inches wide, and is there enough room to move about safely?
- Is the surface of the kitchen floor nonslip, and are there nonslip strips under throw rugs?
- Do you have to step over any electric, telephone or extension cords?
- Is there suitable lighting in the work areas, and are stovetop controls easy to see and reach?
- Is the sink faucet lever-touch for ease as well as temperature-regulated and kept at or below 120 degrees?
- Are drawers and cabinet doors easy to reach, with shelves and drawers labeled?
- If a step stool must be used, does it have a nonslip base and a handle?
- Are there smoke and carbon monoxide detectors near the kitchen?
- Is there a fire extinguisher within reach of cooking areas?
- Is a telephone readily available for emergencies?
Once a safety assessment is made, Sigal and her team can make suggestions for easy, do-it-yourself changes to the kitchen. They can also suggest products that might make being in the kitchen and cooking easier for a senior.
“I often will send an email to family members with links to products they can use,” says Sigal. “I’ll let them know that ‘XYZ’ is perfect for their aging mom or dad, provide photos of what it looks like and links to popular, nationwide shopping sites where they can buy it. I also give family members an idea of how much it will cost. I’m not a sales person; it’s just one of the many services we like to offer to help people comfortably and safely age in place.”
Find more information on AARP’s home safety recommendations and its HomeFit guide at aarp.org.
For the news media: To talk with Claire Sigal about aging in place for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.