For many seniors, moving into an assisted living facility is unfathomable. In fact, most seniors are interested in aging in place — that is to say, making their own home the right place to grow older. This allows them to stay in the environment they know and love, hold on to cherished memories, and maintain normalcy throughout their golden years.
However, aging in place requires some work and forethought. Here are ways to make sure your home, body, and mind are ready to take on the challenges.
Unless your home is already designed for maximum safety and accessibility, you should consider some modifications. There are plenty of standard home design elements, such as steep stairways and slick bathroom floors, that become hazardous as we age. Taking steps to ensure your safety means you can continue to thrive in your current home.
Does your house have two floors? If so, consider installing a stair lift to easily move between levels without risking a fall or putting excess strain on joints. Lighting is another consideration. Your home’s should remain as consistent as possible as you transition from room to room. This is especially important on stairs as light is needed for the eyes to see contrast and depth.
Keep in mind as you’re making modifications that about six out of every 10 falling accidents among seniors happen at home. These can occur because of vision changes, mobility issues, and even cognitive decline. In addition to light, it also makes sense to pay attention to the bathroom by adding safety grab bars and a shower with a no-step entry. Remember, this is the one room in your home that is guaranteed to have water and soap, which are a bad combination on tiled floors.
Decreased balance is a natural part of aging, but that doesn’t mean you can’t mitigate its effects. Regular exercise can improve strength, flexibility, and balance. This means you’re both less likely to fall and less likely to sustain serious injury in the event that you do.
So, it’s important to find ways to build exercise into your routine. Not sure where to start? Consider a group class, which provides socialization and motivation in addition to professional guidance. If you’re a Medicare subscriber, you may be eligible for the SilverSneakers Medicare program, which can make these kinds of classes substantially more affordable by giving you access to 13,000 fitness centers across the country.
Strong Social Network
Social isolation is one of the biggest problems affecting seniors. One of the benefits of moving to a senior-focused facility is the built-in social network, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get this kind of support in your own space. However, it will require a focused effort.
Make sure to get out of the house or host at home so that you can stay connected to friends and family often. Staying in touch will improve your mood, reduce your risk for depression, and keep you safer in the event of a serious health problem.
Find New Hobbies
Isolation isn’t the only emotional risk facing seniors who stay at home. It’s easy to fall into the same routine you’ve always had when you don’t have a change of environment. Although some routines are most definitely good for you, it’s also important to make sure you’re satisfying your natural curiosity for new things and experiences.
New hobbies are a great way to nurture that thirst for fresh experiences. Consider a low-impact physical hobby, like mild nature walks or gardening. These will get you outdoors so you can enjoy the impact nature has on mood and energy. Creative hobbies, such as painting or music, can give you a chance to explore your artistic side. Don’t worry if it takes you a while to find the right hobby for you: if something doesn’t click, just try another until you find a good fit.
Ask for Help When You Need It
No matter how fit you stay or how accessible your house is, there will always be times when you need a little bit of extra help. Don’t let pride get in the way of asking for assistance when you need it. For example, you might want to hire a cleaning service periodically to give your house a deep cleaning, or ask a friend or family member over to help you put up seasonal decorations.
Stay honest with yourself about your limits — there’s nothing wrong with needing help, especially if it keeps you safe and healthy. The best way to make aging in place work is by staying self-aware and transparent with the people in your life. By focusing on a safe home, plenty of exercise, and mental stimulation, you can enjoy your golden years right where you are.
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