By Anna Hazard
In particular mobility is the most common disability amongst seniors . Of the 40% of Americans aged 65+ who identify as having a disability, 2/3rds are related to mobility impairments such as difficulty standing, walking, climbing or otherwise requiring mobility equipment such as canes, walkers, scooters, or wheelchairs. Over 32% of seniors over age 65+ have enough difficulty walking to require the use of mobility equipment such as a walker, cane, scooter, or wheelchair, This will require that the senior's home environment to be tailored to fit around such aids.
The most common medical condition associated with the required use of a mobility device is osteoarthritis which occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones wears down over time. Stroke is another common condition that is prevalent amongst wheel & scooter users. Of all wheelchair uses nearly half of those surveyed identify having problems entering or exiting their homes usually due to the presence of steps or stairs.
Other disabilities cited by seniors also include difficulties living independently (such as being able to easily leave the house for shopping or appointments), difficulty hearing or seeing, forgetfulness and cognitive impairments, as well as difficulty maintaining hygiene such as with bathing or dressing. The CDC also reports that falls are the leading cause of injury deaths amongst senior adults 65+ and thus fall prevention remains a crucial part of aging in place preparations.
The most common ways of dealing with the disabilities and complications that naturally come with aging include...
- Moving to smaller & easier to maintain residences. This would include variations of moving into an independent home, assisted living, or individual housing within a senior community
- Redecorating and retrofitting current homes for easier accessibility. While more time consuming and often with a large financial upfront cost, this tends to be a less expensive option than the continued on-going cost of assisted living.
Many of the options for aging in place follow the same rules used for universal design (created for the accessibility of the handicapped or those with other disabilities) as many seniors will gain ambulatory problems with age. These principles include...
In general rancher style homes that are single level are the easiest to modify for aging in place otherwise stair lifts (and if spacing & funding allows), personal/disability elevators may need to be installed within multi-level homes for those with more severe forms of mobility issues.
Otherwise, many aging in place renovations can be done by implementing the use of assistive technology (whose use can be linked to the reduction in activity limitations within the elderly). In particular, there are four categories of assistive technology that covers communication & engagement, health, learning & contribution, as well as safety & security. Besides introducing new equipment such as smart home use, fall monitors, and assistive devices, this would also encompass switching out current furniture (replacing a normal chair with a lift chair, breakable cups & mugs with those meant for arthritis users) and implementing the use of universal design elements (better & more accessible lighting, installing grab bars etc)
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