Look Homeward

Planning to Age in Place…

Thoughts from industry leader Mark Hager

It’s no secret that people would rather live on their own while they grow older. Aging in place can be a beneficial option for many people. (Though, it should be noted, it isn’t necessarily for everyone. Particularly those that have serious health problems or other conditions, that cause them to need a greater level of assistance.) For most, it is good for them mentally and emotionally to be at home. It also is good for the community, since their continued independence lessens the impact on local resources.

Unfortunately, most people do not understand enough about the changes their bodies and minds could go through as they age, or how that translates to their needs changing.

It should be noted that aging in place is not just about a person remaining as independent as possible as they grow older. Or, keeping them safe, healthy and engaged with their community. Those are all goals under the main objective of maintaining their quality of life. Which, in my mind, is the primary objective.

Aging in place takes a plan

There is a lot that goes into a successful plan for aging in place. And, since so much of a person’s time is spent in their home, it makes sense to focus a lot of the effort there.

Beyond the use of Universal Design principles to create a usable space (which there are volumes about online), there are thousands of products with can be used to assist a person aging in place.

Below are a few products that can be used to help them maintain their quality of life, while accomplishing some of the goals of safety, security and caring for themselves.

Fire suppression - Developed by firefighters, Fire Avert stops stove-top fires before they happen. Fire Avert is a relatively new product that keeps stove fires from happening by turning off the power to a stove if the smoke alarm is triggered.

Anti-scald showers - One of many anti-scald devices available, the ScaldShield anti-scald adapter fits any standard shower head. If the temperature of the water goes above 120 degrees, the shower shuts down to a trickle until the water temperature is adjusted.

For showers, you should also think about an adjustable shower head with a handshower included for hard-to-reach places. Though self-explanatory in a caregiving situation, this shower setup makes showering a much nicer experience for anyone. [http://www.moen.com/refresh/chrome-seven-function-9-diameter-spray-head-standard-with-handshower-showerhead/_/R-CONSUMER%3A21005]

Task lights - There are plenty of places in the home where a little extra light makes whatever you’re doing easier. Kitchens, laundry rooms, craft areas, closets and under upper cabinets are great places for task lighting. LED rope lighting is a great solution under upper cabinets.  LED touch lights are great for just about any work area.

Laundry - A wall mounted, adjustable ironing board can make ironing easier for anyone. (Most home improvement stores sell them.) Couple that with an iron that turns off if left on and you just made it more safe. A rolling basket and/or modular table for folding is also beneficial.

No slips - Everyone should be conscious of fall hazards. Wood, concrete and tile floors can be coated with a texture to help prevent slips. Most do not require a professional to apply.

Easier home entry - Good lighting is a must for an entrance, but what can you do about wrestling with your keys and packages? First, most major lock companies now make keyless automated door bolts that can be used separately or with a home automation system. Also, having a decorative bench or table near the front door gives you a place to set packages.

Automatic lights - Everyone can benefit from lights that come on at night when you get up to go to the bathroom. Whether part of a home automation system or standalone (such as PathLights]), these can help reduce falls at night.

Home automation - A big idea that’s finally come mainstream, home automation is easier and more affordable than ever. Lights that come on when you enter a room, appliances that turn on or off automatically and motion activated nearly anything are only a few things these systems can do for residents. Caregivers also can benefit through knowing when doors are left open, or refrigerators or medicine cabinets are opened at the right times. It also can be combined with home security for video/audio to see who is at the door, visual alarms and notifications of all these events to caregivers.

As a side, today there are lots of new companies offering “smart hubs” that act as the center of a home automation system. These can be set up by nearly anyone with Internet access and work with a wide variety of home automation products. SmartThings, Revolv and the Vera Lite are popular.

Automatic cabinets and counters - Nearly everyone has difficulty reaching into the tops of cabinets. That is especially true when you get older. Today, you can get cabinet and shelving products that makes it a cinch. Companies such as Diago, Blum [http://www.blum.com/us/en/01/60/20/] and others make motorized cabinets, drawers and counters that gently descend, lift up or draw out, ensuring you can reach what you need and the work surface you’re using.

Smart phones, tablets and personal computers - Connecting with family, friends and caregivers via Skype or Face Time. There are apps that remind and track medication, brain and memory games, continued learning, list keeping and more. As well as apps for health, which include tracking eating habits and blood sugar levels, heart rate, pulse and blood pressure. There are even apps that use your device’s camera to magnify words or pictures. Most smart phones and tablets now come with voice recognition, which means you can reduce the amount of typing needed and just dictate emails or text messages.

Wandering - There are plenty of ways to help keep people with dementia from wandering, including the GPS Smart Shoe by GTX Corp and anti-wander pendants and monitoring systems.

Appliances - Dishwashers, stoves, microwaves and other appliances should be easily used by anyone. GE, Subzero, Wolf and many other manufacturers make appliances that are easier to read, use buttons instead of knobs and are created to meet ADA guidelines.

Independa Angela - This product allows TVs with HDMI support to have video chat, photo-sharing, Gmail and Facebook access. It also allows family caregivers to check in, keep track of medication and appointment reminders and more.

Shoes - The Shoe & Boot Valet has a great product that is designed to help older people pull on and take off their shoes without needing to stretch or bend down. 

Home monitoring - There are a host of in-home monitoring systems to help people aging in place. Two frontrunners include GrandCare and BeClose, though there are many to choose from.

For a more personal touch, there are also options for telecaregiving through companies such as Rest Assured Telecare by ResCare, which not only does home monitoring to keep an eye on the older person living there, but also can include check-ins by a remote caregiver.

Floor cleaning - No one really likes to clean floors and it’s even more difficult to accomplish when you’re older. Consumer home cleaning robots can be an option to help. iRobot manufactures the Roomba floor cleaning robot that makes vacuum cleaning a thing of the past.

Help at home a reality

Aging in place is something that nearly anyone can do with the proper planning aond a little determination. You can read more about the idea of aging in place, as well as more about changes you can make to a home and lifestyle at ageinplace.com [http://ageinplace.com/at-home/aging-in-place-home-ideas/].

About Mark Hager

Mark Hager is an aging in place thought leader and advocate. He is the founder of AgeInPlace.com [http://ageinplace.com], a leading authority in the aging in place niche and a trusted voice for both consumers and small business owners serving older people.

Read more Planning to Age in Place from Rob Flippo

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