Make Homes Safer for Active Adult and Senior Living

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There is no question that for many Americans, home is where the heart is. Contrary to popular stereotypes, most older adults close to retirement age do not choose to pack up and move to warmer climates in their retirement years. According to a recent AARP study, nearly ninety percent of adults 50 and older want to remain in their current home and community. And who can blame them? It’s the place they’ve shared their lives together and often raised a family.

“We know people love their homes, and want to stay in their homes for as long as possible. That is why it is so important to make simple changes to be safe and comfortable in your home,” says Elinor Ginzler, Director of Livable Communities at AARP. “There are easy and inexpensive ways to update your home to accommodate everyone and you don’t have to be an expert to do it. The earlier you start identifying and planning for improvements, the better your chance of enjoying your home for years to come.”

h3. Reasons Why Seniors Choose to Stay in their Homes

There are a variety of reasons why those 50 and older want to stay in their homes:

* Attachment to their home and neighborhood
* Close ties to friends, family and neighbors
* Proximity to favorite amenities, such as a grocery store they love, a cleaner they’ve always gone to or a favorite walking trail

Seniors can face physical challenges that can make it difficult, and sometimes impossible to stay in their homes without some degree of change to their environment. In fact, studies indicate that half of all falls happen at home and research suggests that one-third of home accidents can be prevented by easy home updates and preventative maintenance.

h3. Features to Avoid When Planning for Retirement at Home

* Low lighting
* Stairs with no handrails
* Loose area rugs
* Entrances with many steps
* Hard-to-grasp faucet handles and door knobs
* High cabinets

However, just as we do, homes themselves age too. It’s important for homeowners to make updates to ensure that their home remains a safe and comfortable environment. You wouldn’t skip out on your annual physical, so you shouldn’t neglect to assess your home.

h3. Steps to Make a Home Safer for Seniors

Aging parents, as well as their adult children, can take advantage of the fall season to prepare home for the winter season and holiday guests. Older adults and those who want them to feel safe and comfortable, can take easy, inexpensive steps to make home the ‘sweetest’ it has ever been.

The following 10 steps can make home a safer and more comfortable place:

# Install handrails on both sides of all steps (inside and outside)
# Secure all carpets and area rugs with double-sided tape
# Install easy-to-grasp shaped handles for all drawers and cabinet doors
# Use brighter bulbs in all settings
# Install nightlights in all areas of night activity
# Add reflective, non-slip tape on all non-carpeted stairs
# Install lever handles for all doors
# Place a bench near entrances for setting down purchases and resting
# Install closet lights, as well as adjustable rods and shelves
# Install rocker light switches and consider illuminated ones in select areas

Local hardware stores carry many of the products to make simple updates to homes for the aging. For more extensive renovations, homeowners should consider hiring a contractor who is licensed, certified and bonded to do work in that particular location.

h3. Things to Consider When Purchasing a New Home for Retirement

For those who are considering purchasing a new home for their retirement, assessing its livability is critical before making a purchase.

* Is there a step-free entrance into the central living area of the home?
* Are the doorways wide enough to move in a big-screen TV, or in some cases, a wheelchair or walker?
* Is there a bathroom and bedroom on the main floor?
* For a loved one with mobility problems, can the bathtub, toilet and shower be easily accessed?

These are just a few questions older adults should consider asking as they prepare to buy, ensuring that their retirement home will support them comfortably as they age.

AARP offers a wealth of information to guide homeowners in retrofitting and updating their home. To learn more about home design and how to evaluate your home, visit www.aarp.org/homedesign.

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