* Brought to you in partnership with Australian Seniors *
Losing independence is one of the greatest fears for future retirees. According to the Quality of Life 2022 report by Australian Seniors, 82 per cent of the 5000 people surveyed want to continue living independently in their own homes should they ever require additional support, rather than living in an aged care facility.
Whether you’re considering downsizing and buying a new home or retrofitting your existing one, plenty of factors can be considered in advance.
Longevity, reassurance, a sense of safety and security are just some of the reasons why homeowners want to future-proof their home, according to the report.
Occupational Therapy Australia aged care specialist occupational therapist (OT) Christina Wyatt has nearly 20 years of clinical experience in adult rehabilitation, disability and people living with dementia.
And while a professional OT assessment of living arrangements is beneficial, Wyatt says mainstream stores such as Harvey Norman and Bunnings can supply much of what is needed to age-proof our homes.
Here are her expert pointers to help keep older Australians living safely and happily in their homes in the years ahead.
MAKING AN ENTRANCE
1 Clear overgrown gardens.
2 Ensure you have good lighting.
3 Install a rail or banister if you have steps.
4 Buy bright, reflective, rough-surfaced strips for step edges to show where the tread ends and improve grip.
5 If arthritis is a problem, invest in key turner aids or consider a punch-code door lock – punch in the code and the lock mechanism opens.
6 Have CCTV or video access at the front door to allow you to see who’s outside.
7 Slouchy chairs and sofas become tricky as we age, so consider platforms that raise the chair from the base. If you can’t find them in nearby stores, consult an OT or ask a local handyman.
8 Harvey Norman, among others, sells electric rise and recliner chairs that lift and gently tip you out, with the added luxury of leg rests. Anyone with particular mobility or degenerative issues can get prescription chairs.
9 Digital home hubs are embraced by OTs, who recommend Google and Alexa for those experiencing cognitive changes like struggling to keep routines or appointments. Home hubs can be linked to home automation – heating, lighting, television, blinds – so all can be under voice control. OTs can support people using this technology.
10 Heavy vacuum cleaners are a pain at any age. Robotic vacuum cleaners are useful, but can create trip hazards.
11 Numerous aids make life easier in the kitchen – food preparation stations, easy grip utensils and a massive variety
of jar openers. For those worried about scalds, a kettle tipper or a small, light kettle can help.
12 Invest in a roll of non-slip matting to stabilise items on the benchtop and help get a better grip when opening lids.
13 If renovating a kitchen, move ovens to eye level, retrofit sliding drawers and lazy Susans into cupboards, and make enough space for a small perch stool to sit on while preparing food or washing dishes.
14 When buying a new bed, think ahead to future needs. Mainstream stores sell electronically adjustable beds that will lift and support heads, feet and knees and even come with scissor lifts so the entire bed moves up and down. They’re great for alleviating snoring, reflux, back pain and improving circulation.
15 For help getting out of bed, a bed stick that sits between the base and mattress provides a lever to pull you up and help you stand. For safety, these must be fitted professionally.
16 If bending is getting harder, invest in long-handled shoehorns, sock aids, grabbers and dressing sticks. Those with hand issues can buy button and zip aids.
17 Sensor mats will detect if a person has fallen and send an alert to a responder.
DO YOU NEED A BATH?
18 There are no soft landings in bathrooms, so grab rails are essential. OTs can provide bath boards that sit over a bath for showering, but anyone renovating is better off removing the bath for a wet room.
19 Raised garden beds are fantastic for growing vegetables and flowers. Long-handled tools are also very useful.
20 Use garden trolleys to carry tools and heavy items and ensure garden pavers aren’t lifting.
21 Washing lines are best at chest height as reaching overhead can impact balance.
22 Keep the laundry basket high, like on the bench – or use that garden trolley to wheel it out.
This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in DARE magazine and is published here in partnership with Australian Seniors. For the full Quality of Life 2022 report and more home and contents tips and stories, visit seniors.com.au
Originally published as Affordable changes to help you stay independent in your home
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