Learn how to senior proof your home

Moving into a new home with your elderly parents or grandparents? Then it’s time to consider an elderly-friendly design that will not endanger the old folks or help them get around easily without having to go through an extended obstacle course.

Teck Whye Crescent. Picture: iProperty

In a bid to encourage multi-generational living, the Housing Development Board (HDB) launched 84 ‘three-generation’ flats in 2013. Such flats, which have 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, are about 5 sqm larger than the current 5-room flats. If you’ve always wanted to stay in a multi-generation home like what our ancestors used to do, then this is indeed good news.

But even if necessity requires you to stay with your elderly parents (or in-laws) or grandparents, having an Elderly-friendly Home is definitely a plus point.

In fact, an ideal home environment should be maintenance-friendly and help the seniors to see and read clearly, do and reach for things easily without having to endanger their well-being.

Make the move to “elder-proof” your home for a safer and more comfortable environment for ageing adults. Here’s how.

1. Keep it bright

Bright whites are softened by very pale mints. Design: Ann King Design. Photographer: Amanda Prior

A well-lit home is welcoming, inviting, and safer– especially for the elderly. A bright and warmly-lit study is conducive for reading while brightly-lit entrances and stairways provide better visibility and help minimize accidents.

Ensure light switches are easily accessible, especially if you have a family member who is wheelchair bound or consider installing motion-sensor lights if senior family members have difficulty finding or reaching the light switches.

Invest in nightlights in the bedroom or along the hallway to the bathroom to improve visibility in the dark. Large, two-way rocker switches are also convenient for elderly family members to control light switches with ease.

2. Rearrange your space

Accessibility is key in an elderly-friendly home. Rearrange your furniture and home fixtures to facilitate movement. Where residents are less mobile, arrange your furniture such that walkways are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair.

Consider placing sturdy pieces of furniture where they can double as supports for the elderly in areas where they might need to stand more often. Also ensure that passages are free from obstructions such as electrical cords, by securing them neatly with cable ties or tucking them behind furniture.

3. Install elderly-friendly fittings

Home improvement items. Picture: Kluje.com

When it comes to home improvement, the tiniest details often have the biggest impact – and it is no different when making your home more elderly-friendly. For starters, make a trip to the DIY store and pick up some new fittings:

Stainless Steel Nylon Grab Bar, $22. Picture: The Golden Concepts

  • Replace round doorknobs with lever handles, which are easier to grasp.
  • Invest in new bathroom fittings– a grab bar adjacent to your toilet bowl is a must, as is a single-handed faucet control.
  • If mobility is an issue, consider a hand-held shower head rather than a fixed one, as well as a foldable seat for your shower. Entrances with steps should be fitted with ramps, and handrails can be installed close to beds

4. Slip-proof your floors

Slippery floors can be treacherous, particularly for the elderly. Reduce the risk of slips and falls by applying slip-resistant coatings to your toilet floors, or consider treating your flooring with a tile-etching acid solution to keep it slip-resistant if you don’t want to alter the appearance of your tiles.

Jalan Bukit Merah HDB. Picture: iProperty

While decorative rugs and mats are aesthetically appealing, they can pose a safety hazard if they are not skid-proof or placed on non-slip carpet pads and easily available at any DIY store and are especially important if your home has smooth floor surfaces such as marble and solid-surface tiles.

5. Reorganise your storage

A well-organized wardrobe or closet can make getting dressed a lot easier – simply ensure that regularly-used items are stored at an appropriate level to minimize bending or stretching.

Multi-tiered storage racks with baskets at varying heights are useful for small clothing items like socks and underwear while hanging racks in wardrobes can be adjusted such that the clothing is hung at a convenient and accessible height.