Older people experience, to a greater or lesser extent, mobility difficulties associated with the rigors of age.
These complications are also noticeable inside their homes. Not in vain, it is the space in which they spend the most hours throughout the day. Within the framework of active aging that we wish for all our older people, it is essential to condition their homes so that accidents related to their growing health mobility problems can be avoided.
Next, we will review how we have to approach the adaptation of their homes to make it really effective.
The keys to a home adapted to the elderly
First of all, we must bear in mind that, when adapting a housing for reduced mobility, we should not wait for the accident to occur. At these ages, its consequences can become even irreversible.
Therefore, the home adaptation process must be progressive. Apart from avoiding the misfortunes mentioned above, it will be necessary for the elderly person to get used to the novelties that are being implemented, from a psychological point of view.
It is important that they don’t feel traumatized by including too many changes in a short space of time, since they could overwhelm them. And besides, an elevator, a stair lift or a ramp cannot be installed overnight.
Likewise, we have to appreciate that we not only prepare a house adapted to the day-to-day life of its main resident. This one also has to have the appropriate accessories for caregivers.
These caregivers can be family or friends, but also professionals, so we have to bear in mind their needs as well to achieve the maximum benefits of active aging.
Aging in Place Design Checklist: How to Design Safe and Accessible Homes
Although each room requires its adaptation processes, depending on of its different uses and characteristics, there are some guidelines that we must bear in mind when we want to make the house safer for the old person.
The first thing to remember is that we always have to get information about the legal nature of the works we want to undertake.
There are some of them, such as the placement of certain technical aids, which do not involve great difficulties or annoyances. For example, placing a handhold or unfolding a non-slip mat will not require any special procedure, beyond its installation.
However, any action that affects the facilities shared with the neighbourhood will involve agreements within the framework of decision of the neighbourhood community. In this respect, it should be remembered that the new Universal Accessibility Law favours the elimination of architectural barriers.
In this sense, if the elderly person who suffers from mobility problems is also disabled, he/she will have a better chance of obtaining benefits in the field of universal accessibility.
The different Public Administrations grant this aid for combating obstacles in the surroundings of the community of owners and in common areas where the elderly with disabilities live.
But we have to value other maxims to guarantee safety of the spaces that our elders inhabit. For example, there are plenty various items that can cause slipping, such as certain rugs.
The adaptation of the rooms, on the other hand, not only has to do with difficulties in walking through them. The technical aids have been designed according to the limitations that affect the rest of the senses.
Without going any further, regarding the eyes, the use of the TV remote control with a larger and a more simple keyboards will be provided. Also, the electrical switches will be seen in the darkness through phosphorescent colours.
Sufficient lighting, both natural and artificial, becomes consequently, an indispensable requirement when it comes to ensuring safe steps between rooms. They have been revealed as especially useful for securing the motion sensors, which turn on the lights when certain limits are crossed.
The furniture must be chosen based on ergonomic criteria and comfort. It is worthwhile, along these lines, to remove superfluous elements, since they can lead to tripping and it costs more to clean a house with an overdone decoration.
But we must a not forget that we cannot turn a home into an aseptic space. So it is still important that the older person keeps photos and memories that make their day more bearable.
Preparing rooms with health as a priority
Finally, we are going to explain how each of the main rooms of the home can be designed for an old age person, considering health as a priority.
The bathroom is one of the most risky rooms. In fact, up to 46% of the domestic accidents of our elders happen while carrying out essential hygiene.
The basic premise in the bathroom is to avoid falls. Therefore, surfaces that are conducive to slipping (such as some floors and mats) will be replaced by other non-slip ones, such as some firm rough.
Besides, we can install hand holders on the walls and even a chair to facilitate cleaning inside the shower. The different accessories have to be in easily accessible places.
It is very important that it is on the ground floor or the first floor. The nightstand has to be very close to the bed and to the same level. Electric or articulated beds have proven to be very interesting to promote rest, hygienic work and activities such as reading, eating, or watching television.
Apart from facilitating the preparation of the menus, it is key to avoid injuries for burns. For this reason, we recommend induction cookers. There must be detectors for both the high temperatures of surfaces as for gas leaks.
Comfort has to be made effective by sliding doors (also in cabinets and storage devices).
The living room
Comfort must be the distinguishing mark of the sofa and the cordless phone must always be close.
Pieces of furniture that do not have a defined use should be avoided and it is good to provide a good natural incoming light and illumination, which ensures a warm but well lit environment.
Ultimately, elderly people will enjoy a comfortable and safe old age if we adapt the home to their mobility conditions and their age related characteristics.