How visitable is your parent’s home?
It’s always great to be home for the holidays with family and friends all around. Because my mom, in-laws and some of their friends are getting a little older and want to age in place, home modifications for safety and visitability are worth actively exploring with them. At this time of year when I’m home my mom and I do a walk-through of the house, room-by-room, and look for potential hazards or simple improvements that can be made while I am there or by a pro later on.
Adequate Lighting Is Essential to Safety
One of the simplest but vastly important items to check is lighting. Starting outdoors and then throughout the house and garage. When you are thinking about lighting you also need to think about shadows. Shadows can dramatically alter one’s perception – particularly depth.
Entering and leaving the house
I find it useful to perform common tasks like putting a key in the front door lock at night with the lights on. When approaching the front door if there are one or more steps are they well lit? What about shadows? When you get to the door are you blocking your own light? Is the lock clearly visible? Is there a screen or storm door that when opened blocks the light?
Once you have completed the ease of entry drill try leaving the house as you or a guest would. Take a good look at the steps and shadows and the walkway. Are there uneven bright and dark patches or places where your own shadow is a hazard?
I also go through the same drill by entering the house through the garage (attached) where family enters and exits 90% of the time.
In the hub of the house – the kitchen
Last year we installed under cabinet task lights and 3 new pendant type lights over the sink and adjacent counter tops. We’re probably in pretty good shape there. But I will be spending a lot of time in the kitchen since we all take turns cooking or cleaning up so I will be able to tweak things based on hands-on use if necessary.
Master bedroom, bath and closet
The last thing you want is someone fumbling around in the dark. So you might want to consider bedside lamps that you can touch and they light up. Or, a motion sensor that will trigger a light if someone gets out of the bed. And it’s always a good idea to keep a flash light within reach in case of power failure.
In the bathroom, even if you determine that there is sufficient light, you might want to consider installing a heat lamp for those chilly mornings.
Closets rarely have enough light for older people to truly distinguish subtle color differences. You might consider natural light, fluorescent lighting to supplement what’s there or replace it.
Navigating the house
Hallways are another great place for a motion detector activated light. There is always the temptation to NOT turn on the lights either because of familiarity or there is just enough light to kind of see coming from other rooms.
When it comes to lighting more is better
I find, generally, with lighting for seniors you are better off with more rather than less than they need. When in doubt bump it up a notch! Also, with ceiling light fixtures try to use the ones that have multiple bulbs so that if one goes out there will still be some light until it’s replaced. And yes, lots of light-sensing night lights around the house are also good to use.
Wishing you and your loved ones a safe and joyous holiday!