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7 tips to make your home safer and more welcoming for seniors

By Sherette Almandoz

Interior Design Consultant

Here in Trinidad and Tobago, our culture is one of family. Many households are made up of multiple generations, sometimes spanning from grandparents to grandchildren.

Accommodating seniors in such a household may prove to be challenging as the home often needs to be retrofitted to make the space more suitable for them. This may seem daunting, but by incorporating some universal design concepts and a bit of creativity, you can create a space that is welcoming and friendlier not only to granny and grandpa, but to all ages in the household as well.

Use contrasting colours

Macular degeneration, also known as Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a disease that causes damage to a person’s central vision. It starts to creep in as you increase in age, causing light and depth perception to become more challenging. Juxtaposing contrasting colours makes it easier for older persons to differentiate between items, aiding in a safer and more independent lifestyle.

Choose levers over knobs

Rounded handles prove to be difficult for elderly persons or those with disabilities such as arthritis to grasp or turn. Lever handles require much less effort and so are much more preferred and therefore recommended. You can simply apply gentle pressure to open or close the door. This also comes in very handy when groceries are in hand!

Zero thresholds

It is recommended to have zero thresholds in your shower area so that it minimises the effort persons must exert to enter, especially those with mobility issues like the elderly or the differently abled. Shower compartment thresholds should be no more than ½ inch high and should be bevelled with a 1 in 2 slope and nothing steeper. This limits the effort necessary to step up and over traditional thresholds and makes it more accessible to those in wheelchairs.

Wall-mounted dispensers

Wall-mounted dispensers can prove to be useful for persons with impaired dexterity, who may not be able to properly grasp a bar of soap. They can instead use liquid soap or body wash dispensed on a loofah perhaps, which may be easier for them to apply.

Having a wall-mounted dispenser also aids those with mobility issues, as it prevents them from having to bend over if the bar of soap falls to the floor. Dispensers should be placed no higher than 48 inches above the floor. Just note though that it is easy for these dispensers to collect bacteria so make sure to keep them clean.

Non-slip mats/rugs

Bathroom areas can become hazardous because of their slippery surfaces. To avoid danger underfoot, the use of slip-resistant or non-skid mats and rugs are encouraged. The use of a lower pile rug or carpet is also useful, as it limits the trips and falls of those who use walkers. In fact, all floors should be made slip resistant if possible.

Accessible gardens

Gardening is a common pastime for many people and it’s often disheartening that mobility issues often limit this activity for many seniors. Garden beds can be raised to at least two feet from the ground to limit the strain of having to bend to garden beds which are usually set to ground level. There are some amazing design solutions created by Raymond LaRoque. Also noteworthy is Green Circle Garden Ltd and Nature Sacred who have created fantastic innovative accessible gardens as well.

Smart home devices

We are all going to need support systems as we get older, and smart homes can aid in this progression. Smart home devices can improve the efficiency and quality of your home and your life. They easily limit the amount of effort you exert for a task and improve the independence of seniors who may prefer to age in place, while also benefitting the household at large.

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