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Home Safe Home

Welcome to the June edition of Aging and Still Engaging. The content of this month’s column has been provided by Alan Prince, who is an Occupational Therapist, Certified Aging in Place Specialist and trained Home Safety Advisor. Today’s topic is aimed towards seniors and disabled persons, and addresses the importance of maintaining a safe home environment. Underlying all safety concerns is how to prevent falls. Additionally, as people age they wonder how long their current home or family member’s home will support changes in accessibility? These questions are significant, and having the right information about aging in place are critical to your longevity in your own home.
Fall prevention strategies incorporate home modifications that adapt an environment with additional supports that reduce fall risks, and include: installing grab bars or railings in the shower, near the toilet, by steps or stairs, removing throw rugs and increasing lighting (motion sensor night lights and task lighting). Complex or more involved solutions include bathroom and kitchen remodels. Common remodels of the bathroom include removing an existing tub/shower and building or installing a barrier free walk-in shower. A comfort height toilet and grab bars, as well as a pedestal or wall-mounted sink can improve ease of access and reduce over exertion and fall potential.
Accessibility is defined by the ability to access areas of the home and items within the home. If an individual has balance difficulties and/or health concerns, a poorly designed home with clutter or narrow pathways can pose a hazard to performing activities of daily living such as toileting, dressing, bathing, cooking (ADLs). As a person ages, their abilities change and the home may not support the safe performance of these ADLs. Improving accessibility means creating wider doorways, clearing spaces for wheelchair passage, lowering counters, cabinets, and sinks, eliminating high thresholds, adding ramps or lifts and creating level surfaces for ease of mobility. In the kitchen, building varied counter heights, lowering microwaves, replacing appliances with sub-zero refrigerator drawers and dishwasher drawers, adding new faucets with lever handles, and installing cabinets with pull out shelves are just a few of the options.
The first step to determining home safety is to understand your health and environmental needs. Creating an age safe home requires knowledge of all your barriers (physical and environmental). Having a qualified home safety advisor, Occupational Therapist or Certified Aging in Place Specialist can assist in guiding you through this process. In any case, at the core of home safety is accessibility and fall prevention.
The concept of universal design can be a great starting place for those wanting to create an environment accessible by all. By definition universal design, also called barrier-free design, focuses on making the house safe and accessible for everyone, regardless of age, physical ability, or stature. For more information about universal design, visit https://www.humancentereddesign.org/resources/universal-design-housing. And for home safety tips and guidelines, visit http://www.aarp.org/livable-communities/info-2014/aarp-home-fit-guide-aging-in-place.html.
The San Luis Obispo County Commission on Aging invites the public to join them at the Veteran’s Hall on Grand Ave. in San Luis Obispo on Friday, June 16, 2017 from 10 a.m. – Noon. The special topic that day is “How to Choose an Affordable and Licensed Assisted Living Facility,” which will be presented by Karen Jones from Long Term Care Ombudsman Services of SLO County. For more information about the Commission on Aging, visit www.slocounty.ca.gov/coa.htm, or call 235-5779.

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