Prepare Your Home For Aging In Place

Simple Improvements to Remain in Your Castle

Be the queen and king of your castle with some easy aging in place improvements. Shayne Fitz-Coy

My home is my castle, and I've earned my right to protect my life's investment. I don't want to move into a nursing home or one of my relatives' homes until the very end. People sometimes talk about "aging in place" as though you're Thanksgiving leftovers growing moldy in the fridge. Let's all plan to grow nice and old in our own homes. Here are a few simple improvements you can make to remain the king and queen of your castle and age in place.

"Keep 'em where I can see 'em"

1. About once every two days, I ask my wife to call my cell phone because I can't find it. I'm a bit of a scatterbrain, but we all forget where we put our keys and wallets sometimes. As we get older, it just happens a bit more often. So I'm going to designate a place where the essentials go: a shelf or small table right by my door to store my keys, wallet, collar stays, phone ... whatever I seem to always be losing. If you're going to stand your ground, you've got to know where your stuff is.

2. I'm 6'3" but my wife's 5'3". This means that most of our cabinets are mounted far too high for her to reach, even though they're perfect for me. So for her sake, we're going to bring them down to where she can see 'em. After all, what's the fun of being king of my home when I don't have a queen to share it with?

3. How about putting appliances down right where we can reach them?

I know I have burned myself on hot soup out of a microwave because I couldn't see how full my bowl was. So what we have on deck is to put our appliances (such as the microwave) waist height, and maybe even inside a drawer. Not only will we cleverly move the appliance within easy reach, but we will also declutter our countertop.

4. I love chocolate chip cookies. I want to keep baking and eating my cookies even when I'm older. (I swear by this recipe) But I know that the moment I burn myself, I'm going to start feeling afraid of baking and I don't want that. So to prepare my castle, I'm planning to switch my oven to one that has a door that swings to the side like my refrigerator doors do. That way, I'm less likely to trip over a hot oven door.

"Get In and Get Out, No Messing About"

1. I used to play football and so I have a little trouble with my right knee. I can't imagine that the mobility will improve over the years. It's awfully hard to stand your ground if your walker or wheelchair can't navigate a steep entryway. Smooth out any entryway steps into your home. Call a local contractor to get some quotes.

2. Don't be caught at the door with knobs that are hard to turn. Lever handles don't require turning like traditional knobs and are easier on fragile hands. I like level handles even now — when if my hands are full I can pop open the door with a nudge of my elbow.

3. The bathroom is frequently the site of slips and falls, especially in and around the tub. Climbing in and out of a slippery tub is perilous for anyone.

So, I plan to convert my tub into a curbless shower. That way, I won't have to step over anything to get in or out. A linear shower drain goes perfectly with this, too, and is easy to clean.

4. Who wouldn't want clear nighttime vision? Being able to see at night is key to standing your ground. Plug in some motion-detecting night lights to show the way to your bathroom or other places you walk in your house after dark. It's like having a crew of bodyguards poised and ready to illuminate your path every night. Oh, and eat your carrots too.

Forget standing. Sit your ground!

1. Wireless switches are very convenient when turning on and off your electric lights and appliances while seated.

Using a remote or my smartphone, I can toggle my Christmas tree lights on and off. I will never have to climb underneath to unplug them again. Which is great because what kind of king crawls under trees?

2. Put a moveable seat in the shower. Heck, I might install this sooner than later. Sometimes it's just more pleasant to sit your ground, whether it's an early morning, or a relaxing hot rinse before bed, just resting a bit while you soak of your tired feet.

3. Don't skimp on personal hygiene because you can't stay on your feet for too long at the bathroom mirror. Put a chair at the counter for brushing your teeth, shaving, putting on makeup, or fixing your hair. If your counter is too high for sitting, call that contractor who was going to level out your entryway, and have them give you a quote for lowering your counter too.

4. Where do you spend most of your time in your home? If you're like me, it's probably the couch or the kitchen table. One thing I noticed recently is that my couch is on the low side, so it's harder to sit or get up from. My next couch will be a little higher (but not too high — I don't want my wife to have to jump to get on it). I also noticed that my dining chairs don't quite have enough room to slide all the way back from the table before hitting the wall. I am going to downsize my table to make some more room.

Keep the freedom you've earned. Stay in your own home until you're good and ready to leave. Most of the things I am doing require little to no time or money. They just require me to care enough to make some adjustments. So whether you stand or sit your ground, make a few changes. Keep your castle strong and safe.

Shayne Fitz-Coy is the Co-CEO and President of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company headquartered in Williamsport, Pennsylvania with offices nationwide. A Certified Aging in Place Specialist, Shayne has a bachelor's degree in Psychology from Harvard College and a master's in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Shayne hails from Maryland, and now calls the Bay Area home.

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