January 2, 2021

Living Safely At Home ...For Longer Than We Thought?

 


All of us are much more familiar with our living spaces today than we were ten months ago. A pandemic lockdown and fear of infection or death can do that to a person. The safest place is within our own four walls. Whether a home, apartment, condo, farmhouse, RV, yurt...wherever we call home, has been our refuge. Of course, at times, it has felt like a prison, too. 

Betty and I spent part of New Year's day talking about this year's budget and our spending plans. For now, long and involved vacation trips are still off the table, though we might take a few three or four-day jaunts in the immediate area. Luckily, where we live has enough variety in climate and scenery to make that interesting enough to keep us from going stir-crazy.

More of our thought went into a few renovation and remodeling plans for our home. We have been in this house for almost six years and expect to live here for another eight years or so. With that amount of time in one place, we discussed a desire to freshen our living space by making some decoration changes.

More importantly, we wondered what we could do to make the home safer as we age. While a retirement community is our ultimate plan, Covid has forced us to wonder about that choice. The horror stories of unchecked illness in such settings and the inability of the family to visit us in the event of another pandemic are terrifying scenarios.

Statistics show that one in 3 people over 65 will fall at some point, and most suffer some type of damage. Among this age group, a fall is the leading cause of death by injury. That group includes both of us, so suddenly, I was paying full attention.

I did some basic research and found several things we could do over the next few years to our home if aging in place became our preferred option, at least for longer than we had originally planned.  Some are quite pricey and may not be worth the cost. Others are both affordable and proactive steps to keep us safer at home. 

Here is the full list I developed that has become part of our discussions. We will not tackle all of these straight away, but it is good to have all the options in front of us.

  • Walk-In Tubs: Walk-In Tubs are not cheap but a major modification to consider. They are safe, easy to use, and allow anyone the independence of giving themselves a bath. Walk-in tubs have slip-resistant floors and built-in hand grips. They are much safer than a standard bathtub or shower. While modifying the bathroom, we could install a raised toilet seat with handles. Thousands are hurt each year by using too low a toilet for an aging body to use safely.
  • Throw rugs. If placed over wood floors or tiles, small rugs can easily cause one to trip or slip. Plastic mats placed by doors to prevent mud or snow from being tracked into the house are an accident waiting to happen. We have mats by each door that, even with anti-slip bottoms, will move. Our carpeting is a low nap, so that is good.
  • Levered Handles: Levered handles are much easier to use than standard doorknobs. Instead of turning a knob, levered handles allow a door to open by merely pushing the handle down. Arthritis can make twisting a knob quite difficult. With a lever, a push-down, and the door opens. I easily installed several of these this past fall. It was a welcome change.
  • Stair Railings: If there are stairs in your home, it is a good idea to have additional hand railings installed. Usually, there is a railing on only one side of the staircase. Make sure all railings extend the full length of the stairs. Place nonskid tape strips or reflective strips on stair risers to prevent any sliding or falling on the staircase.  Our home is one level, so this is one worry we do not have.
  • Widened Door Openings: Widened door openings are essential for anyone who uses a walker or wheelchair. Housing with narrow doorways or hallways can essentially trap someone in a wheelchair in just a few areas of the home. We will have to consider this expensive retrofit for one of the bathrooms and Betty's office door.
  • Sinks and cabinets: Sinks are another modification that can make life much easier for seniors. With levered faucets and lowered counter surfaces, they can be used without as much effort. Check that there is enough room between the floor and bottom of the sink to allow wheelchair access. The same approach applies to cabinets in the bathroom or kitchen. If possible, lower them so reaching isn't necessary. This might become an expensive necessity for us later on. For now, we use safe stepstools when something is too high to reach comfortably.
  • Extensions cords. Ensure those wires from lamps, fans, or stereos are not crossing a path through a room or sticking out from behind the couch. Many older homes may not have GFI (ground fault interrupter) electrical outlets in bathrooms and kitchens. That oversight can kill. Replacement outlets are quite affordable. I have done so both inside and outside our home with no damage to our wiring or my body! Now, I must move/hide a few cords.
  • Brighter Lighting. As we age, our eyesight declines. Brighter light is required for all tasks, as well as reading and safely moving through a room. Install extra lamps (though watch out for excessive cords..see above) or wall lamps. Use brighter bulbs where possible. This is high on our list. The living room and master bedroom are too dark.
  • Remove unnecessary clutter. It is simply amazing the amount of stuff we accumulate if we live in a house for any number of years. You don't even have to have a pack rat-type personality to have a dangerous amount of clutter. In addition to being a tripping hazard, fire is another concern as we age. Our ability to quickly exit a burning home is diminished if things are cluttered. Also, we are rethinking the placement of furniture. If someone uses a wheelchair or a walker the general guideline is at least 5 feet between any two pieces of furniture. 

Like me, until I undertook this review, you may be thinking that none of this applies to you yet. That may be true, but you are only one accident away. How about a relative or friend? Do you know someone else who could benefit from some of these safety fixes? 

There are probably another dozen suggestions that I could have added, but I want to encourage you to jump in now with your thoughts. What else could make a house safer? What modifications will allow us to stay in our homes as long as possible, as independent as we'd to like be, and still be safe?

At this point, our budget for remodels and repairs hasn't been finalized. Help me out!


46 comments:

  1. Happy New Year to you and Betty! As 2021 rolls out,I want to be optimistic but I also see the facts—that we may be here at home for at least the next 6 months till the vaccine is widely distributed and effective after 2 doses.. it will take some time,I the meantime, a number of people I know who were PREVIOUSLY being cautious, are now mixing it up with other households, answering the door without a mask when I drop off a book or Cookies, but I am just not ready to let all my hard work go to waste and drop my guard just when we may turn a corner..so HOME IT IS. LAST year we did a few upgrades , such as a new mattress in both master bedroom and the guest room. WHOA I WISH I HAD DONE THAT SOONER! A new refrigerator..Cooking is a major hobby for me, and having a kitchen I LOVE is essential so the old side by side that I inherited with the kitchen, went out to pasture and I got the double door freezer on the bottom I wanted for years! We also bought a small chest freezer when Covid hit. The washer broke in April so we had to have a masked service person come in and install a new one— it took a month to GET DELIVERY! (Covid.) As far as aging in place, I’m not inclined towards a care community any time soon. We’re gonna be here a good long time yet.I’ve done a few of the things you mention: removed throw rugs (I did take a fall a couple of years ago!) and moved some furniture around. Our hallway is very wide and the bathroom in that part fo the house was built with very low accessible sinks and wide doorway. The open floor plan of this house makes it a dream to enjoy. No STAIRS for me.. the years we lived in a THREE story in Pine reminded me I love ONE FLOOR. Since travel is off the table for a while , we, too, are looking at using our funds for more local pleasures — Ken is buying ship models and all kinds of little tools to go with, I have craft supplies I love and we splurge on groceries a bit more, as ALL our meals come out of our kitchen. No more lunch dates. We’ve lost some “Extra” income, as Ken had to close his part time chiro/acupuncture practice in March. We’re safe and sound but I am not feeling “spendy..” so, for 2021, we will continue as we have. I have lost the urge to even go to an airbnb locally but maybe thatt’ll change when Spring comes around. In the meantime, we’re safe and cozy at. Home. Very simple pleasures like making sure to go outside to watch the sunrise and sunset, have become essential.. and just listening to the waterfall flowing out back while reading a good book soo these the soul. Also, I GET DRESSED everyday! LOL! I wear my jewelry and put on the lipstick..it makes a difference.

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    1. We got a new king mattress for the master bathroom, too. It has been quite a while since we have been mattress shopping...I didn't realize how expensive they have become!

      Moving from a multi-story home to a single story one was a very smart move. My knees welcome the loss of 14 stairs up and down many times a day.

      The entrance to my office and the master bedroom are double doors so when we need a wider entrance that will solve a problem. Unfortunately, the guest room (used infrequency) and Betty's office (used a lot) have narrow doors that would be expensive to widen.

      We had decided on a few simple kitchen changes but those are now on hold due to the new Corvid wave here in Arizona. This is not the time to have repair/remodeling people in the home. But, Betty and I will repaint two accent walls, so we feel not totally stuck in place.

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  2. We are building out one floor house in a place where people scratch their heads that we have no basement. No more flooded basements- ever! No more tempting upstairs.
    Here are a few things that are on the priority list:
    Both bathrooms will have a separate shower- all of my friends take showers when visiting. The master will have a walk in shower and tub area that can become a walk in bath (but the review I hear is that you get really cold waiting for the water to drain.) Master will have a raised toilet.
    Cool grab bars. Remember those ugly, fat grab bars--well there are some really nice ones out there.
    French door entrance into the master (which will mostly be open). Wide halls.
    All drawers in the lower cabinet areas. Anywhere there is a cabinet, there is a drawer. No more reaching or laying on the floor to find stuff. Even the closet will be made for lower reach with a pull down bar for upper clothes.
    Against our builder's dead body- installing only three upper cabinets in the kitchen. They are expensive and we, seriously, do not use them. We will make them generic- more can be added if someone needs to sell the place.
    Good mud room with non slip floors and trays for wet things as we walk in from the garage (not as important where you are). One of our friends installed a tiny door from the garage to the pantry- no walking in groceries. I could do that to our mud room. We are putting a pass through from the master closet to the laundry room.
    Solar lights/tubes in many areas. Underlighting for the three kitchen uppers. Looking into lots of interesting, motion sensor lighting....
    A Murphy bed in the closet of the "guest" bedroom. No giving up precious real estate for a bed that is rarely slept in.We will use that room 90% of the time as an entertainment center/ crafts.
    A Porch My sister has a large covered lanai with a huge fan in Phoenix and uses it year round.
    A small fridge for water/drinks integrated into the end of the island. The regular fridge will not have any water to it (it is what breaks the most often).
    Great lighting for the closets- all of them!
    Walk in pantry- shelves that are at hip level are 10 inches apart and shallow.
    We don't NEED any of these things YET- but we don't want to move again until we are ready for a granny pod. My husband is 70 and his father passed at 83. We want to extend that by- at least - ten years.....A fall ended both his and my father's independence.

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    1. What a tremendous list, Janette. There are ideas galore we can think about.

      The comment about the walk-in tub and the problem of cold water draining before you can out open the door and step out is an issue I had not considered. How do you get around this problem, I wonder.

      Our guest room is used only by one of our daughters who spends the night on occasion, even though her apartment is only 15 minutes away. The idea of a Murphy bed in that room is a logical change. That would make an entire room available for other purposes rathe than having a queen bed taking up half the space.

      In fact, we could take down part of the wall between that room and Betty's office and basically double her craft and art space.

      Thanks for so many thought-starters.

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  3. Bob, posting on this topic provides an excellent service to your readers and the list of suggestions is a good one. A close friend of ours is a contractor on Whidbey Island off the coast of Washington. I recall him presenting an "Aging in Place" seminar for seniors at a church or community center. If you're still involved with your local library, perhaps the Board would consider offering something similar as a service to your community. With the information you've gathered, you could probably present it yourself if you were so inclined. Just food for thought on an important topic . . .

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    1. Good idea, Mary. I don't the library has ever done anything like that, but that makes sense. It is likely the pandemic has brought this topic into sharper focus.

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  4. Bob, thanks for raising this issue. There's a line in a Tanya Tucker song - we all think we got the time until we don't. I think this applies to reduced mobility and safety concerns in aging; we don't think about adaptations until we need them. As Janette says, easy access into the house from the garage or driveway would be important. That may include a ramp. Laundry/pantry/freezer on the main floor can reduce trips to another level in the home. A friend with MS installed a stair lift in her home and that makes trips to the basement a lot easier for her. Raised garden beds extend one's ability to garden with more ease. Anyone with mobility issues would benefit from a virtual assistant in the home, i.e. Alexa, Siri, Google, etc. In that vein, I would recommend call alert devices. I've witnessed a reluctance in the elderly to use mobility assist, i.e. canes, walkers, wheelchair. These devices can increase mobility and safety. Also, personal services like bath assist, meal/grocery delivery, lawn/snow removal service can extend a person's ability to live in one's own home.

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    1. Asking others for help seems to go against the grain for many of us. Yet, those services you mention are designed for us and help keep us safe longer. They become a new line item in the budget but are much cheaper than what an accident may cost, both in pain and lack of mobility.

      I have resisted using Alexa because of privacy issues, but I am constantly reminded that our privacy disappeared a long time ago; to not use the assist of a smart speaker or call alert devices is silly on my part.

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  5. Great summary and useful to people of any age recovering from some surgeries or illnesses. Last summer I did have foot surgery and found it quite difficult to use the knee scooter on the carpeted areas of our home. Thankfully I could manage by staying on the hard flooring areas. It was also quite challenging to do anything in the kitchen because of the effort involved in all the back and forth to get what was needed and carry it a bit at a time. Even with grab bars getting in and out of the shower was also challenging but a good shower chair plus the grab bars made it easy once in. Lots to think about and prioritize.

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    1. Grab bars may be our first immediate takeaway fro9m the comments. For one of the tub showers and the toilets, they are inexpensive and could be a lifesaver.

      Betty is quite short (barely 5') so she has to use a stool (or me) to get anything from the top shelves of the upper cabinets. Lowering the stuff we use every day makes sense.

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  6. When we built this house nearly two decades ago, having wider doorways and halls, levered door handles, taller toilets, bigger bathrooms, zero steps entryways, ceiling light fixtures with bulbs that can be changed without using a ladder, etc. were not common. Our house is so well designed that you have to tell people it was built to accommodate wheelchair living because there are no ramps or other clues that yell it out to people visiting. I've never understood why people fight making disability friendly changes as they age BEFORE then need them because once you do, you might not have the time or mental and/or physical ability to carry them out.

    I've read statistics that 30% of the elderly who end up in nursing homes could have stayed in their own homes with a few minor changes but they either can't make those changes on their own or their kids aren't willing to help with those changes because they use a small setback as a reason to force their parent into where the kids think they'll be saver. I'm seeing that struggle now between two sisters who have different ideas about where their father should be. One wants him in an independent living place, the other wants him to stay at home as long as possible so guess which sister does the lion's share of helping their father.

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    1. My son-in-law's father wants to stay in his house until they cart him out. Besides advancing age he already faces multiple challenges because of Parkinson's. His master bath area was completely remodeled last summer to make it much safer. That alone made everyone in the family breathe easier.

      The same reason people refuse to evacuate before a hurricane hits, planning for disability admits weakness. That is very tough for too many of us.

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    2. I would love to hear about the lighting with easy to change bulbs!

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    3. Janette, you just look for light fixtures that have bulbs that can be changed with a long handled light bulb changing device. My light bulb changer extends from 8ft to 15ft and there is no need for a ladder. No one would know the fixtures are any different than in any other house because they're not. We just didn't get any fixtures with globes covering the bulbs that have to be removed before changing the bulbs. Our globes are all open bottomed.

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  7. All good advice. When we renovated our bathroom last year we made sure to install a grab rail in the shower. Now ... if I can just get my wife to get rid of some of the clutter!

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    1. A few grab bars will be going into our home soon. I have ben motivated to action by these comments.

      Clutter: the death of many of us, both figuratively and literally!

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  8. One important thing: Don’t forget grab bars in the bathroom - both shower, bathtub and around the toilet.

    And night lights through out the house including light switches that glow in the dark are handy.

    So many things to think about��

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    1. As you can see from previous comments, grab bars are a universal suggestion.

      We do have a few night lights for those areas we may wander in the middle of the night. One is the type you mention: built into an outlet, it turns on when the bathroom is dark.

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  9. We are lucky in most respects to home safety. My Dad was already disabled when we shopped for this house so it's a single level. We have a sunken living room that we plan to raise level. We've been waiting for a builder to have the time. As we needed to replace doorknobs, we went all lever for Mom's arthritic hands (Dad died in '94). When we had to remodel our bathroom (yes, HAD to as the drywall was soaking wet and we discovered the builder did not properly install vapor barrier so black mold abounded). We have a walk-in shower and a 36" door.

    Our challenge is those doorways. Our home is just 1650 sf and each doorway is bound by walls so there is no flexibility. A small person wheelchair will fit so we'll simply have to lose weight ;-)

    I use bathroom rugs in our kitchen so they have great gripper. We're just 59 so I think we're OK for another decade or more. The first time I trip over one, they will be gone though! I'm not waiting for fractures.

    Great post to get everyone thinking. Our health is more important than anything else as we age!

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    1. We use grippers on the bottom of a few mats in the kitchen and by the front and patio doors. The throw rugs in the bathrooms do not have them, but should. After all, where are slips more likely than in a space with wet feet.

      I replaced nine knobs with levers. Not difficult and they make an instant difference.

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  10. Great topic. My downsized home includes leveled handles everywhere except the outside doors, I have low nap carpet throughout, except for kitchen and bathrooms. Right now I have non slip mats in front of kitchen sink and tub, but I can see those going at some point. Rather than a walk in or sit down tub I plan to put a double transfer chair next to my tub so that I can step into the tub shower combo sitting down if I need to. I have nightlight and keep all the door and space between my bed and the bathroom completely clean. I have good quality professionally installed bathroom grab bars as well. I do have SOME overhead in the kitchen but nothing that I cannot reach without standing on my toes . Covid has also taught me that I can get anything I need delivered to my home (And pre covid, even set on my kitchen counter or table) for no fee to a reasonable fee depending. I also will need to raise my toilet or at least get a good set of handles that stabilize on the floor at somepoint. Not mentioned in your article is aging bodies getting up from comfortable furniture. I am unwilling to have one of those kickoff recliners in my life. So right now I use my Rolling walker as assistance on the bad days as it serves no other purpose. I do plan to get a set of bars that fit in my sofa if ever needed. Also, my occupation therapist daughter reminds me that beds can be to low and too high. If you have one of those high sleigh type beds that you need to push yourself up to, its unsafe. On the other hand beds lower than your nauural sitting level are also unsafe. I got rid of the high throne like one and got a good quality wood frame sleigh like bed that I can just put my feet down flat with when I sit up. Like Janette, this is my last place until the granny pod or second master suite depending. I also have purchased some helpful tools and assists that I'll ve sharing about on my own blog in a new years post soon.

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    1. We have what I would consider a normal bed height in the master, but Betty still needs to give herself a bit of a boost. We stayed at the VRBO not long ago that had a bed so high it came with steps! Stupid and dangerous.

      We have resisted much in the way of delivery services. But, with Arizona becoming a hot spot again, I will have to overcome that hesitancy until vaccinations are common. Their added cost supports others who need the income, and is an extra level of safety for us.

      I look forward to your upcoming post, Barb, about the tools and assists you bought (https://richlyretired.blogspot.com/)

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  11. Happy New Year to you and Betty!

    I know your post is about practical things to make your home space more safe as we age, especially in terms of avoiding hazards that could cause a fall. I would like to add something that is not really on topic but relevant to the danger of falling that increases as we age -- both the higher risk of falling itself, and the higher likelihood of serious injury if we do fall.

    Our risk of falling can certainly be lessened by the modifications to our environment that you listed. It can also be lessened by engaging in some form of practice or exercise that increases our body awareness, and helps us stay internally aligned and balanced. There are many options, like taiji and qigong and yoga to name a few. These days it's easy to find online videos, or a zoom class.

    Increasing our internal alignment and balance is a good way to complement the changes you've listed. And it also enhances our safety when we are outside of our home.

    I'm now going to go around my house and look for changes I can make according to your helpful list!

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    1. As we age we can struggle with the types of issues you mention: balance and flexibility. There is probably a direct line one could draw between some of the hazards listed above and the issue you raise. If someone's balance and physical agility is compromised, a bump against a chair or a slight stumble on a throw rug can turn disastrous.

      Thanks, Galen for the added thought. Everything kind of works together to keep us in our home and healthy. The very best from Betty and me to you and your precious family.

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  12. I tripped and fell in my bathroom three years ago and broke my back. It hurt bad but did not require surgery. I tripped and fell into the sunken tub at 3AM in the dark going to the restroom. I did not have a nightlight. We had not remodeled and filled in the tub to make it a shower.

    We remodeled that bathroom last year and filled in the tub to make it a handicap shower. It has big grab handles and a shower stool and a long shower hose plus a cool rain head. It cost $15K but was worth every penny. We also put in grab handles by the toilet.

    Our next project is filling in the step down living room and putting in a electric fire place for extra winter heat. But that needs to wait for summer and more vaccinations to make it safe. This CV19 is making us hold off all kinds of chores and upgrades for safety.

    Be careful with those walk in tubs and the entrance lips.

    Good Luck. .

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    1. Wow...you are lucky that fall wasn't even more serious, though a broken back isn't exactly just a stubbed toe on a shower lip. Luckily, our large tub in the master bath is raised. Of course, that causes its own problems: stepping in and out. Remodeling something like you did is expensive, but the alternative is not acceptable.

      Corvid's resurgence and the new mutated version means anything that requires outside help is back on hold. I have a slight leak in one bathroom sink. Tomorrow I will try to squeeze underneath and see if I can repair it. If not we will have to decide to not use it for a few months, or risk having a repair person in the house. Luckily, that is the bathroom with two sinks, so being down one is only a minor irritant.

      Filling in a sunken living room can't be a simple fix, but that design feature is very dangerous as we age. Best of luck.

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  13. I'm need a wheelchair and we have remodeled our one story house to make it as accessible as possible. Our toilet is a handicap height toilet. If needed, we can install grab bars on the toilet seat, but so far I've not needed that. We have a bathtub and shower with a shower bench (not chair, as everyone grabs the back of the shower chair for balance and then fall when it tips over). We have a hand held shower head (very easy to install) and grab bars. When I'm not able to use the shower bench anymore, we will get one of the remote controlled benches that lowers down into the tub and raises up when finished to the edge of the tub so I can swing my legs out and use grab bars to stand. Most of our remodeling money went into the bathroom, as it is impossible to stay in a house when you can't access a shower, toilet and sink. :-)

    Zero entry entrance whether with a ramp or changing landscaping is a necessity. Making sure that the bed is the same height as my wheelchair seat for easy transfers. Also made sure that the bed had a pedestal base with under the bed drawers that I can easily reach. Lowering the bar in half the closet for my stuff and making sure that brackets are in place to lower the other side if needed, as doing it all at once was cheaper and easier.

    We took out all of the carpeting and replaced it with flooring throughout the entire house. Much easier to keep clean (thank you robot vacuums!) and I am less likely to catch my foot on rugs and take a tumble when I transfer. Front loading washer, as I am not able to dig into the bottom of the top loading washers. Putting the dryer on a pedestal to make it high enough to reach into easily.

    The main thing that we did in the kitchen was replace all of the bottom cabinets with pull out drawers. So much easier for me to put stuff away and find stuff. We also bought a stove with knobs on the front so that I can reach them too.

    My spouse is extremely handy, so everything above is stuff he did over the years as my ability to get around gradually lessened. That meant that we had no enormous expenditures other than the major bathroom remodel and were able to spread the costs out. Not everyone will end up in a wheelchair, but having everything so accessible has been a godsend to me and my spouse when he had knee surgery.

    Like you, both of us have completely reconsidered going into any type of congregate living situation. Being locked in a room/apartment for months on end does not appeal to either one of us. While it may be necessary in the future and we are keeping track of the different options in our community, we have pretty much ruled that out, at least for the time being.

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    1. Your list includes some very important considerations. I wouldn't have thought about the shower chair-bench difference but it is easy to see the danger involved.

      Like you, we have some custom closet work done when we moved into our current house. Betty's clothes and shoes are on the lower racks, mine up above. Out of season clothes are in closets in the garage that are also arranged for height concerns.

      Front loading washer: again, not something I would have thought about, but with limited mobility that would become very important.

      Thanks, Figgie.

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    2. Figgie, I love our robotic vacuum, too, and also bought a robotic mop. Both were on the low price end but with good reviews, with the idea that we were trying them out. They're both going strong months later. With a Great Pyr mix with feet like mops, the vacuuming has to be done every day and the mopping, almost as often.

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  14. It's interesting, as someone who is aging alone, I've had the opposite reaction to the pandemic -- thinking I'll probably move to a retirement community earlier than I had previously planned. Dealing with house maintenance issues when I couldn't ask a friend or neighbor to come over and help and when it was almost impossible to find workers in the trades who would wear a mask has been very stressful.
    I was looking at a website for universal design, and one of the things they recommended, in addition to all the ones you've listed, is installing contrasting strips at the edge of counters so that someone with failing eyesight can more easily see where the edge is. (I would apply this same principle to any stairs.) You're smart to plan on installing age-friendly upgrades before you need them.

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    1. Thank you, Jean, for sharing a different perspective. I can certainly see how being alone could change this whole discussion. Trying to find a dependable repair person is hard enough without the added stress of Covid and finding those who will follow safety standards.

      We installed strips that look a little like police crime scene tape on the half step from the garage into the house. The gray step and the gray garage floor made it easy to stumble.

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  15. This is such an important topic! We've done a few of the items on your list over the years but one thing we did wasn't even for us. We installed grab bars in our guest bathroom's tub area for when my husband's aging parents visited. They appreciated it but we've also found them useful for us (at our "young" age) now and then. For instance, when I broke my hip three or four years ago, I used that bathroom since it was downstairs and those grab bars were a life savor (maybe literally). It's never too early to start thinking about these things.

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    1. I assume one would have to employ a qualified handyman/woman to install grab bars safely. Especially in a shower or bathtub area, they would have to be mounted to wall studs. Drilling through tiles or an enclosure is not something I'd want to tackle on my own.

      After all the comments so far, you can trust that it is one addition we have moved to the top of our list.

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  16. Before my first brain surgery in 2016, I got a preview of life as a much older person. I needed a cane for two and a half years before that surgery, which wasn't to address that instability at all but somehow did. Because one of our grandchildren was born with a metabolic disorder and her future mobility was questionable when we bought this house, we'd chosen a one-story on flat land with thought for her future mobility and ours. That was fortunate because that decision made that period much easier. Still, I fell and had an ER trip due to my attempt to use a stepladder and not ask my husband for help! I learned a valuable lesson then about accepting help.

    As someone who has since recovered my mobility, I highly second the earlier suggestion to take classes that increase balance, strength and stamina, and that is true whether one can walk or not. My first classes were seated ones.

    An injury my husband sustained at the beginning of March taught me that we need to remodel our bathroom if we stay here. The four-inch lip into the shower was impossible without me lending help that I really wasn't strong enough to render. I also have an auto-immune illness. We are reassessing our future plans right now, but if we decide to stay here, a bathroom remodel is definitely in the works. Thanks for your suggestions. Since my second brain surgery, our girls have been campaigning for us to move closer to one of them. We're in the boonies and about an hour away from one and two and a half hours from the other. We were planning to do so, but this Covid time has caused us to reconsider. Here, we can walk our dog through our neighborhood of 45 homes on one-acre lots, waving and talking to people while staying far away from them. (We still mask anyway.) We can walk out our front door with our dog and head to the nature preserve a mile away. Or, I can at least. When my husband's injury made it too difficult for him to walk the dog and his hospitalization last month after an adverse reaction to a medication led to me finding him unresponsive, I was too afraid to leave him alone for a while. We easily hired a neighborhood teen to walk her, requiring minimal contact at the front door as we're all masked, he waits a distance from the door, and she eagerly runs to him. We finally got grocery curbside and delivery options JUST before Covid hit, so the grocery problem was solved. Moreover, neighbors took over in our mixed-age subdivision, and our neighborhood site was full of offers to help "the elderly" among us. When the EMTs rolled my husband's stretcher out of the house, neighbors were on the lawn calling out, "Do you want us to take Zoey (our three-year-old adopted Great Pyr mix) home with us? What else do you need?" When our outside Arlo batteries need changing, we hire one of the neighborhood teens to do it--again with no direct contact--as there are lots of teens trying to earn money to pay for a car or car insurance. We do not eat out and do not pick up curbside at restaurants that allow inside eating, but the one little vegan/vegetarian cafe and bakery in town has curbside-only eating and will even deliver. Zoom doctor visits became available. We bought a robotic vacuum and then a robotic mop to take care of the one task that was too painful for me and too much for my recovering husband. (Great idea!) We're thinking this home in the boonies isn't so bad after all as we age, and your suggestions will be ones we consider, too.

    And thanks for including the link to Barb's blog. I somehow had lost it over the years.

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    1. I appreciate the details of your various problems because they bring into sharp focus all the factors we should consider, some expected but many something that comes out of the blue and make a shortcoming in our preparation very obvious.

      Asking for help is such a basic step and one too many of us (myself included) resist. My experience is people love to be useful to other people. It is a win-win for everyone.

      You may be the first person to comment on a robotic vacuum cleaner in all my years of posts! I can't figure out how they don't miss parts of the house, but I assume you are happy with its performance.

      You are welcome for the link to Barb's blog. It is listed on the right sidebar, but so many of the blog names sound the same, it is easy to get confused!

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  17. I managed to fall twice in the past year. Both from a combination of low light and extension cords. I took a walk through my place with the purpose of identifying and removing or modifying hazards, but I worry about those things that I don't recognize as a hazard. My father's geriatric clinic offers a visit from an occupational therapist to review the home environment for fall hazards and other dangers. I don't yet qualify for the clinic services yet (70+) but my physician said that most practices will offer such a visit at a modest fee. I'm checking into it. I am also outsourcing all of my "on the roof" chores--gutter cleaning, moss control, etc. to service providers. I admit that it hurts my pride a bit, but the dangers are too great.

    Rick in Oregon

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    1. Two falls? Rick, be careful. Thanks for providing first hand proof that it is often the little things that cause the biggest problems.

      A home safety check from someone who isn't trying to sell you something is an excellent idea. I didn't know there were doctors or clinics that provided such a needed service.

      Luckily, we don't have leaves in the gutter or moss to worry about. But, cleaning the roof-mounted AC/heat pump filter is no longer on my to-do list. I gladly pay the $150 for someone else to risk his neck!

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  18. https://www.nextavenue.org/how-to-reclaim-your-independence-after-a-health-crisis/

    This is sort of off topic but truly fits the broader topic of aging in health. I was SO impressed with the author's fitness advice I ordered his book but the 3 Exercises in Six Minutes twice a day he developed are included in the article. I also check www.nextavenue.org every single day and have gained sooo much information that helps my 78 year old self.

    Strength and balance need to be maintained even if we make physical changes to our homes.And I already take 3 medications that can cause dizziness so I have launched a daily routine with these 3 exercises.On Amazon the comments in the Reviews for the book attest to the fact that even regular walking does NOT achieve the desired results attainable with these 3 exercises.

    A year ago my visiting sister slipped in the tub and hit her head on the tub surround hard enough to crack the acrylic. She wasn't hurt but we now have a second grab bar and 3M sticky tapes on the floor of the tub. Hope you also find this info helpful :))
    Jeannine in Iowa

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    1. Since I was one of the first authors to help launch Next Avenue several years ago I have always had a soft spot for that excellent web site. They do provide first class information on virtually every important subject.

      I will certainly check out the book you mentioned. We have stopped going to the gym again because of a new wave of virus in Arizona. Walking is good, but as you note, that is not enough. I do some simple bursitis exercises every day, but that isn't enough either.

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  19. I would like to add another suggestion. A very healthy, active 69 year old friend recently tripped over the long fringe attached to the bottom of her bedspread. She apparently got her toes tangled up in it. The fall caused a broken shoulder and damage to the nerves in her hand and wrist. Nearly a year later, following surgery and therapy, she's doing very well. I would suggest a bed with a foot board to keep the bedspread and blankets from slipping off the end of the bed in the night and staying away from any type of bedspread that touches the floor. I personally use a comforter with no bedskirt.
    ...Glenda

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    1. An excellent idea...one of those little things we might not consider, but look at the major consequences for your friend.

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  20. A lot of good suggestions. We put in new countertops and installed a touch on/off faucet - love it.

    I would love to see one of the HGTV teams (Property Brothers?) do a few home remodels to create a forever home for older folks. It would be great to see that.

    Some of the Medicare plans come with a low cost/free home inspection along with the health visit.

    One of the things we did when we built the home was put in Elfa Closets (daughter worked for the Container Store) so they can be easily modified as needed. We have waaaay too much clutter right now though. Can't convince ourselves (at 72) that we don't need it all :-(

    Also we have a very lightweight short step ladder (2 steps) with a tall loop so we have something to hold onto when we have to use it (not often). We have most of the lights on timers and nightlights everywhere. We live where it is cold and just installed a heated toilet seat, to make the night time trips much more pleasant, that has a night light.

    We have a walk in shower but just a shower curtain no doors for ease of access and in case we need help if we might fall. Doors hinder access.

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    1. All excellent ideas, Bob. The idea of an HGTV show that tackled this topic would be excellent. I'm afraid the demographic they attract wouldn't be interested...unless the premise was making their parents home safe. Then, that idea has a big target audience.

      In our climate, maybe a toilet seat that cools? No, that wouldn't sell.

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  21. Practice standing on one foot every chance you get. When you brush your teeth and floss there is three minutes right there. It will help your balance and allow you to recover your balance if you trip. Staying flexible is a huge part of not falling as is leg strength.

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    1. Using floss time to improve balance...what a clever idea!

      I will try that this morning.

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  22. Bob, our place that we retired to came equipped with an exterior ramp up to the second level. Various friend have used it to access our upper level where the main living area is — various friends with knee problems and a friend in a wheelchair. Our ensuite bathroom has a built-in shower bench, walk in entry, grab bars, and a telephone shower. As I have spent months on crutches at various times because of knee injuries and, more recently, a broken foot, I took note of these features. We’ve also replaced our toilets with higher models. But we have a lot farther to go if we want our home to become more accessible.

    Jude

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