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Aging in Place: 4 Keys to Maintaining an Able Body and Safe Home

July 25, 2018

Many of us want to stay in our own homes until retirement and beyond. “Aging in place” or “aging in” is a great goal. But our bodies change a lot after retirement, and the reality is our homes aren’t usually designed to accommodate new lifestyles and needs. That two-story home with a finished basement? Great for raising a family—maybe not perfect for enjoying retirement.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to move. If your home is where your heart is, consider these keys to keeping your surroundings safe, and making sure you’re up to the daily challenges of aging in place.

1. Reduce the Risk of Falling

Living on your own in retirement means you need to understand your biggest health risks—and falling may be #1. According to the National Council on Aging, 2.8 million older adults end up in an emergency room annually as a result of a fall. Fortunately, there are some easy, inexpensive things you can do to significantly reduce your risk of falling at home, including:

  • Clear your floor of throw rugs, or make sure to use nonstick pads beneath them.
  • Install grab rails in your tub or shower. These don’t have to look clinical—there are a lot of new options that look good and provide reliable support.
  • Keep nighttime pathways lit. Nightlights in hallway outlets work great, and small, battery-powered lights can go anywhere. Plus, they’re both inexpensive—even the motion-detecting types.
2. Stay on Top of Your Health

Taking proactive care of your health is critical to aging in place. For Medicare beneficiaries with Part B coverage, this means using your preventive care benefits like your “Welcome to Medicare” visit, annual wellness appointments, important health screenings, and more. This helps detect issues early on, including:

  • Blood pressure conditions and other complications like diabetes and osteoporosis, which can raise your risk for falling or other injuries.
  • Balance problems, which can be a side effect of some medications. Your physician will review what you’re taking, along with any other possible risks.
  • Vision and hearing problems. These can significantly raise the risks of aging in place, so annual vision and hearing tests are critical.
3. Stay Active

Regular exercise can help your body maintain a stable foundation. Weak lungs, sore legs and feet, and other factors can significantly raise your risk of falling. And unhealthy bones and blood can turn minor injuries into hospital visits.

Get out for a daily walk or check out the exercise programs offered at your local senior center or park district. Tai chi, yoga, or even simple chair aerobics can help maintain or improve your balance. Plus, the social aspect of group activities can help reduce the risks of isolation and depression that can develop when you're living alone.

4. Ask for Help; It’s Wisdom, Not Weakness

Aging in place successfully also means accepting when you might need just a little extra help—whether that’s a drive to the local supermarket, or assistance getting in and out of the shower if it becomes a challenge. In-home senior care services can provide the solutions you need to continue living in your own home safely and comfortably. Your benefits provider or local senior center can be great resources for finding just the help you need.

Whether you’re looking to prevent injuries in your own home—or looking out for a loved one who prefers the comfort of their own home—taking preventive measures can help make sure the aging in experience is as safe and fulfilling as possible. Want more info? Check out these tips on caring for an aging loved one.