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Redesign with Visitors in Mind: How to make your house an elderly-friendly place to be

Aug 8

Written by:
8/8/2012 8:27 AM  RssIcon

For many, summer is a favorite time of year to be visited by friends and family. For others, it’s fall and the winter holidays. Regardless of where you stand, as you prepare for houseguests it’s important to consider whether your home is “visitable” for aging family members.

What makes a house welcoming and user-friendly for aging adults? Three simple things:

  • At least one entrance with no steps.
  • Interior and exterior doorways with at least 32 inches of passage space.
  • One main-floor bathroom that is accessible to a wheelchair and allows maneuvering.

It may surprise you to learn that making these changes is easily accomplished at little or no cost. For example, if your home doesn’t have at least one zero-step entryway, consider renting a ramp during the visit to ensure easy access and exit. You can make your hallways more accessible if you remove any furniture and throw rugs, which make navigation difficult for wheelchairs or other mobility devices.

The kitchen is usually the heart of the home and where family and friends gravitate. Involving family in meal preparation is an easy, fun activity. But what should you do if your kitchen doesn’t have lower, accessible counter space? Consider placing a small table where your elderly guest can sit and lend a helping hand. As a general rule, the table or workspace should have at least 27 inches of clear knee space below to accommodate wheelchairs.

Finally, the trickiest and most problematic area is the bathroom. These simple and inexpensive fixes can help:

  • Install a temporary plastic riser toilet seat (availabe at most hardware, home and drug stores.
  • Install temporary grab bars that attach adjacent to the tub and sink for added support.
  • If your shower has a curb, a transferable shower chair or bench helps seniors who use a wheelchair, can’t use a tub or have problems standing in a shower.
  • A handheld shower, easily installed, is something you may enjoy as well and want to keep.

These adaptations to your home will make it truly “visitable” for your aging parents and loved ones. And, as all of us know, adaptation is the key to healthy coping, aging and care giving. 

Did you find this article helpful? Gain access to information on more helath topics by subscribing to our magazine, Hill Country Health.

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