A fifth of people aged 60-69 have made adaptations to their home in preparation for older age, a new survey by Age UK Trading reveals. These ‘future-proofers’ are planning ahead in order to maintain their independence, with one in 10 saying that wanting to manage on their own was the reason for carrying out the work.
However, many of the 1,355 people surveyed admitted it’s not something they’ve thought about. Some said they don’t want to think about getting old, while others said they’d only consider making changes if their doctor advised them to, or after an accident or ill health forced them into it.
Planning ahead could save on stress in the long run, though.
“Although it can seem daunting, making adaptations to your home is a way of maintaining independence, helping you stay in the home you love for longer,” says Hugh Forde, managing director of Age UK Trading.
“Adaptations can not only make your home an easier and more comfortable place to live, but can also be key to safety, reducing falls and accidents, and the subsequent cost of care and resources.”
Of course, nobody wants to spend money unnecessarily or be ripped off in the process. Forde offers this advice: “As with any major purchase, do your research. Speak to other people and get user recommendations, or read customer reviews of the product you’re interested in. Check there is a guarantee and returns policy in case the product doesn’t meet your needs. Always shop around for the best price.”
Age UK Trading, part of Age UK’s social enterprise, specialises in products for older people, including mobility aids, independent living solutions and health care and technology products, he adds.
Here are some examples of adaptations you may want to consider…
Make bathrooms easier to use
“Loss of mobility and balance can make it increasingly difficult to wash and bathe. Level access showers or wet rooms will mean you don’t have to worry about having to climb over the side of a bath to get in and out. They can also be a more practical solution for wheelchair users or for those who have a carer.”
Move essential facilities downstairs
“If you have difficulty with stairs, it’s a good idea to think about having all your essential facilities [such as your toilet/bathroom and even bedroom] on one floor. This may require a major adaptation. Talk to a qualified professional, such as a surveyor or an architect, to confirm the safety and appropriateness of the adaptation.”
Remove fall hazards
“Avoid clutter and loose mats and rugs, which can be trip hazards. If you have difficulty moving around or use a wheelchair, rearranging furniture so that there are clear paths between rooms can make it easier. If someone has dementia, it’s worth being aware of the impact this can have: for example, shiny floors may appear wet or patterned carpets may be mistaken for faces or holes in the ground.”
Use easy-reach storage
“Accessible kitchens and cupboards of reachable height with shelves that can be pulled out can be useful.”
Install hand rails
“If stairs are becoming difficult, a sturdy handrail to give you support can be a good idea. Handrails in the bathroom can give you support when getting on and off the toilet, or getting in and out of the shower/bath.”
Consider a stairlift
“The freedom of going up and down your stairs whenever you like may seem like a small thing to some, but it’s a big part of staying safe and keeping your independence. Stairlifts can make things easier if you are experiencing difficulty using your stairs.”
Upgrade your bed
“A good night’s sleep is vital to our health and wellbeing. Adjustable beds, designed to allow for your ideal sleeping position, help to distribute your weight evenly and provide the correct support for your body and spine.”
Ensure the place is well lit
“Lighting can help you get about easily and safely. A remote control light that works with a motion sensor to switch the light on automatically if you get out of bed or enter a room may be useful.”
Make sure you can call for support if necessary
“Telecare offers support in a number of ways. For example, it can remind you to do tasks such as take your medications, or it can alert a carer or emergency services if you need help, for example, after a fall.”