Make a House a Home
The front gate was creaking a little, but then again it had always been like that. His wife had asked him to fix it a thousand times, but now he would give anything to hear her nag about it one more time. It had been their dream home – a bit of a reach financially when they first purchased it, but with careful saving and hard work, the mortgage had been paid off for over three decades now. Though the paint was chipping, and the furniture could perhaps do with a bit of an upgrade, the house was alive with memories – scraped knees, holiday cooking, prom pictures and more. Managing on his own in the house was becoming tough, but this was home.
Home is much more than four walls – it is the place where we feel most comfortable, and make our memories. Our home is our sanctuary, and our area of autonomy. It therefore should not come as a surprise that nearly 90 percent of older adults want to remain at home and age in place. However, this same home can become an obstacle as many homes are not built to suit the needs you develop as you age. These needs can be physical, or emotional, as seniors aging at home are often subject to extended periods of being alone. We’ve put together a few tips for living safely and thriving while aging at home.
As we age, seemingly innocent and beloved things around our home can become serious risks to our safety. This can be rugs, tubs, or that loose stair you always make sure to avoid. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), falls are the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide. Adults older than 65 years of age suffer the greatest number of fatal falls. While most falls don’t end in fatality, they could still have a lasting effect on the cognitive and physical state of an older adult. Safety proofing modifies the home to reduce risk, and enable the older adult to remain at home safely. Here’s a few things to keep in mind:
- Floor Traction – As we age we tend to shuffle our feet and risk of slipping increases. Having rugs or slick surfaces can be direct factors that lead to falls.
- Clutter – Easy navigation is key to aging safely at home.
- Bathroom – combine a slick surface with water and you have a perfect recipe for disaster. The bathroom/shower are can be one of the least age friendly areas of a home. Consider introducing non-slip mats, rails, and modify tubs to standing showers along with a shower chair.
One of the biggest obstacles to aging at home is the lack of insight into what is actually going on with the older adult. Whether it’s physical decline that is slowly creeping on, cognitive decline that they are not aware of, or even abuse, when it comes to older adults these things can often go unnoticed. In addition, when aging alone at home there is a risk of not being able to get help when necessary. While these obstacles may have been insurmountable in the past, and would have served as catalysts for a move to a facility, today there are many technologies that can aid in surviving and thriving in the home environment.
New studies show that loneliness can be more detrimental to health than smoking or obesity, and this disproportionately affects older adults. One of the key factors to thriving while aging at home is companionship. Whether this is achieved with a great client/caregiver match, by using technology to stay in touch with family and friends, or by getting out of the house periodically for classes and mingling, stressing companionship can change the viability of aging in place for an older adult.
We have all worked hard to make the house we live in a home, and would not want to give up the familiarity and security of our homes. However, as we age in order to remain at home safely and happily, while still maintaining our dignity and independence, there are important factors that need to be taken into consideration. When you ensure that the home is safety proofed, use technology to stay on top of the health and wellbeing of the older adult, and make a proactive plan for companionship – there is truly no place like home.