20 products for helping seniors stay mobile at home
Aging in place can only happen if the senior can move around the home
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When it comes to seniors aging in place, there’s seemingly no shortage of tools and devices to enhance mobility—and thus, independence. But, where should retirees and their loved ones look to determine which resources are best for their budget, and for increasing accessibility?
Here, aging in place and design experts offered up their picks for the most useful products out there, at any price point.
Not all updates to increase mobility require a massive overhaul—or a massive budget.
Jon Pynoos, co-director of the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence, and a gerontology professor at the University of Southern California, says that grab bars (at $100 or less) are an easy way to create stability or a safety net for slippery surfaces like bathroom floors and counters.
David Karas, a certified aging in place contractor based in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, recommends replacing traditional door knobs that turn with easier-to-grip lever handles that start at about $20. The update is easy for a professional like himself or a handy homeowner, and is “something I suggest 100% of the time.”
Or, updating traditional key-turn locks with keyless-entry smart locks offers a whole host of other possibilities, Karas says. Seniors will no longer have to struggle when holding mail or groceries when they enter their home because their door can be opened and locked via their cell phone. Different user codes can also be assigned. “Say your neighbor wants to come in and check on you or feed your cat—you can give them a different code than your kids,” he says. “That way you know who’s come and gone.”
Make it easier to see
For those grappling with grip in their twilight years, replacing traditional toggle switches with large, easy-to-grasp knobs or a digital dimmer switch with an LED indicator is fast and inexpensive, says Max Tripodi of RCA Contractors in Florida.
One of the easiest updates to make, says Tripodi, is installing smart plugs to make task lighting like lamps voice controlled. He also recommends updating old light bulbs with smart LED bulbs for another simple way to control lamps through Alexa or Google Home, he said.
In the kitchen, peeling isn’t just for vegetables anymore, says Tripodi. Peel and stick strip lights placed under the counter give seniors extra visibility for any dicing and chopping – not only are they inexpensive, but they don’t require help from a contractor, either.
To prevent tripping at and promote restful sleep, Chris Moore, founder of Virginia contracting company Solid Rock Enterprises, often recommends motion sensor lights over nightlights. The glow from the latter can often keep seniors awake, he says, while the former will only come on for those midnight trips to the restroom.
Small bathroom upgrades
Pynoos says the biggest trip hazards by far for seniors are in the bathroom, where he says installing a comfort height toilet in tandem with those grab bars is essential. Another simple fix is putting in a bath mat—but only those with non-slip grips. Ideally, though, seniors would update their flooring when appropriate.
Sacramento-based Kerrie Kelly, a member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and a certified aging in place specialist, recommends textured tile. Or, for extra slip protection, opt for tiles cut into two-inch-by-two-inch squares. The extra grout between them will prevent slipping.
For those with larger budgets, a curbless shower not only looks great—perfect for a home’s resale value—but is practical when it comes to removing the dangers of climbing in and out of a shower, says Scott Fulton, chairman of the board of directors of the National Aging in Place Council.
Rethink the seating
The bathroom isn’t the only living area where the throne is top of mind. A power lift recliner has seat-raising options to assist seniors to get in and out of it. Such chairs also offer a few health benefits, such as improved circulation and reduction in sleep apnea, says biology professor and chiropractor Dr. Deanna O’Dwyer.
It won’t come cheap, but a stair lift is a worthwhile investment for those planning to live out their golden years at home, says Megan Dufresne, a principal kitchen designer at Massachusetts-based MC Design. Stairlifts fall under the category of durable medical equipment and, in some cases, Medicare will cover a portion of the $2,000 to $5,000 cost.
Don’t forget the outdoors
Winter can be treacherous for any age, but the season’s perils are exacerbated for those aging in place.
Because of reduced daylight and vision impairment, Hen Truong recommends adding flood lighting at the entryways to one’s home as a first step. The founder of Honoring Our Precious Elders, Inc. (H.O.P.E.), an Oregon organization providing seniors yard maintenance free of charge, also suggests exterior handrails be installed for extra stability.
And if you live where the flakes fall, snow-melting mats can be invaluable, says Michelle Glass of Bethesda Home Health, a St. Louis-based senior living and service organization. The mats are designed to be left out for the entire season and can melt up to 2 inches of snow per hour on one’s walkways or driveways.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.