By Gene And Katie Hamilton
There's over 7 million American households with more than one generation living in them. These multigenerational household include toddlers, teens, seniors and everyone in between. AARP's Family Expert Amy Goyer said "More grandparents, children and grandchildren are moving in together both to save money and to take care of each other. The past couple years have not been easy for families financially." So the question is: How do you make a home safe, comfortable and convenient for everyone in a household with a variety of physical abilities?
Here are 10 ideas to age proof a home so it's a welcome retreat and safe haven for everyone who lives there.
Safe and Comfortable Furniture
1. Choose bruise-proof furniture so an encounter with the sharp edges on the corner of a table can be a head knocker for a little one; an elder who bumps his hip will get a nasty bruise or worst, have a falling accident. So when you're choosing furniture consider its style as well as if it has any pointed angles that can become an accident maker. For example, a good choice for a family friendly table is one that is round or oval-shaped with smooth outside surfaces.
2. With little ones in the house secure a tall shelving unit or heavy TV to the wall with an anti-tip strap or furniture safety brackets because it can come crashing forward off the wall when it's bumped or nudged. All the items on the shelves can become flying objects and injure anyone in their path. Secure the back of a utility shelf directly to the wall with fasteners.
3. Replace light switches with dimmer light switch controls. With a touch pad that responds to your finger a light switch is easy to operate - especially if someone in the house has arthritis or a sore wrist - and it gives you control lighting the room. You slide your finger up and the light goes on; slide it down the pad and the light dims.
4. Use the maximum safe wattage bulb in light fixtures throughout the house to make all your family's daily activities easier to do. Good lighting is particularly important at the top and bottom of stairwells. And if those stairwells don't have on/off switches at the top and bottom, hire an electrician to add them.
5. Anyone needs increased lighting when working at a kitchen counter. Thin strips of under-cabinet lighting installed on the underside of cabinets provide an important light source for counter work. Just install one underneath a cabinet near an outlet, plug it in and chopping vegetables or reading a recipe is an easy chore.
6. Path lighting along a walkway assures safe footing to or from a car at night. Low voltage systems make the job easy because there's no trenches to dig for the wires. You stake them in the ground, connect them with cables and cover with mulch. The unit is powered by a transformer that reduces standard line voltage and plugs into an outlet.
7. Bathroom light/vent fans have been around for years, but today you can replace an old one with a "smart" unit that senses when to turn itself on and off as someone enters or leaves. This feature is well appreciated in the middle of the night.
8. A grab bar provides a secure handle for getting into and out of a slippery bathtub and for stepping into and out of a shower stall. Every age member of a family will find a grab bar comforting, especially anyone suffering from an injury. The location of a grab bar or safety rail is a consideration. To test drive where to locate one have family members attach a piece of tape or post-it note where a grip would be handy as they get in and out of the tub or shower.
9. A long run of loose cords can be a short road to a tripping accident. The low tech answer is to bundle the cords together so they're contained and visible using a simple wire twist every 2-3 feet of cord. Or use inexpensive electrical ties in the same way or run the cord along molding at the bottom of a wall fastened with u-shaped staples. The high tech solution is found at office supply stores where you'll find an array of cord managers, covers and cable protectors designed to conceal wires and cords. They are lengths of flat and raised rubber strips with an open slit on the bottom where you tuck the cord.
10. Eliminate or secure scatter rugs, especially at the top or bottom of a stairway because they cause falls and tripping accidents. To secure one to the floor, add a rug tape on the bottom of the rug to tighten its grip on the surface of the floor.
Related Articles: Age Friendly Room Checklist