7 ways to make your parents’ home (or yours) safer for aging in place

(BPT) – Aging in place, the ability to live at home safely as we age, is crucial for many of us. The Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation at the University of Michigan recently found 88% of Americans want to stay in their homes as they age. But, that same study found only 15% have thought about the types of home modifications they need to make aging in place possible. Those modifications are crucial to prevent falling and other issues that can affect a person’s ability to live safely at home.

Here are seven ways to create a safe, accessible environment for your aging parents — or yourself.

1. Create clear pathways. It’s vital for people to have clear pathways to get around in their home. Look at the rooms, especially the living room and bedroom, with a critical eye. Is anything in the way as you move from the bedroom to the bathroom? How about from the living room to the kitchen? Do you need to maneuver around end tables, accent chairs or lamps? Stacks of books next to an armchair by the fireplace? It might mean you’ll need to move furniture to a new room configuration to create a clear pathway from Point A to Point B.

2. Remove throw rugs. They’re one of the biggest tripping hazards in the home, and they can make using a walker problematic. Get them up and get them out! And while you’re focusing on floors, use non-slip wax on wood floors and add non-skid treads to steps.

3. Add a toilet seat with built-in support arms. Bathroom safety is critical to aging in place. The Bemis Independence Assurance features support arms, each with a weight capacity of 350 pounds, integrated into the seat. The seat is securely mounted directly to the porcelain, ensuring exceptional stability. In addition to the arms, the Bemis Assurance is elevated three inches, to make sitting and standing easier. It also can include bidet functionality, which is incredibly helpful for the hygiene of older folks. This seat eliminates the need to install permanent grab bars near the toilet and makes it easier for people to sit and stand. It’s a powerful ally for people who want to be safer, aging at home.

4. Add non-slip treads or appliques to the bathtub or shower floor. It’s quick, it’s easy and it can save you or your loved one from a nasty fall. Add grab bars to help steady people in the shower or for extra stability getting into and out of the tub, and a waterproof shower seat.

5. Consider converting your tub into a walk-in shower. This is a more expensive fix than adding grab bars or a new toilet seat, but a walk-in shower is ultimately much safer than climbing over a tub, and can also accommodate a wheelchair.

6. “Smarten” up the house. Smart faucets, thermostats and other smart appliances can add ease of use, protection and safety for older adults. Faucets can be voice or motion activated, and turn off automatically at the end of use. Smart thermostats can keep the house at a comfortable temperature, and smart HVAC units can come with features like leak alerts that sense if pipes have burst or are leaking. All of these smart home items can be monitored from a cell phone, which adds peace of mind for adult children with an aging parent.

7. Install cameras inside and outside the house. Along with smart appliances, cameras can give adult children of aging parents an added layer of peace of mind, and a way to check on their loved one instantly on their phone, from wherever they are.

By making these and other simple, inexpensive changes, you or your loved ones can age in place safely, for as long as possible. And everybody wants that, right?