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How to prepare a home for elderly residents

Grab bars and shower benches can make bathrooms much safer for seniors.

Metro Creative Graphics Inc.

Grab bars and shower benches can make bathrooms much safer for seniors.

Upon reaching retirement age, new retirees may face decisions regarding their living arrangements. Some seniors may opt to stay put, while others may want to downsize their homes to save money and relieve themselves of the burdens of maintaining larger homes.

But those are not the only situations seniors find themselves in. Some seniors realize they can no longer care for themselves without assistance. In such instances, seniors may opt for assisted living facilities or choose to move in with a relative, such as a grown son or daughter. While assisted living facilities are designed to meet the needs of the elderly, young men and women welcoming seniors into their homes may need to take on some home improvement projects to ensure their homes are as safe as possible for elderly residents.

• Convert a room on the first floor into a bedroom. While this may not apply to all seniors, some men and women struggle with stairs as they age, and that can make it difficult for them to fully participate in a household. That ease of accessibility to the primary floor of the house encourages seniors to be active participants in a household. If possible, choose an area that is close to a first-floor bathroom.

• Take steps to make bathrooms safer. The National Institute on Aging says that more than one in three seniors over age 65 fall each year, and 80 percent of those falls take place in the bathroom. Install grab bars on bathroom walls and next to toilets to provide support. In addition, consider installing a shower chair or bench and removable shower nozzle in the shower or tub so seniors can sit down while they bathe and rinse without having to stand up on slippery surfaces. Make sure any mats around bathtubs and sinks are nonskid to reduce the risk of falls even further.

• Install an extra phone line or two. While kids and adults between the ages of 18 and 50 may never use the landlines in their homes, many seniors still rely on traditional telephones as their primary means of communicating with the outside world. Phones in seniors’ bedrooms may also provide some additional privacy to seniors who don’t want to carry on phone conversations in busy areas of the home, such as the kitchen or living room. Such lines may also reduce feelings of isolation.

• Prioritize accessibility when storing items. When storing groceries, books, magazines, or other items seniors are likely to use, choose locations that are accessible to seniors. Avoid storing items on the top shelf of pantries, bookcases or entertainment centers, as seniors with limited mobility may not be able to reach them.

Many seniors move in with their adult children to make their golden years safer and more enjoyable and manageable. Such a change in living arrangements may necessitate some changes on the part of homeowners so they can ensure their homes are safe for seniors.