Universal Design is what contractors and architects call remaking your home to be safe as you age. A very high percentage of falls occur in the bathroom. The most common age related modifications to bathrooms are 1. bathroom grab bars, 2. higher toilets, 3. curbless shower entrances, and 4. wider doorways – ones that can accommodate a wheelchair. Even if you are now only 35, if you are remodeling a bathroom, it might be wise to add these features. You WILL get old, believe me.
Less than 4% of US housing includes 1. single floor living, 2. entrance access without steps, and 3. wide doorways and halls, wide enough for a wheelchair. I have all of these things as part of my new home, thanks in part to a savvy contractor. What I wish we had thought to do is use lever handles instead of door knobs in the new place. My thumbs are getting more and more arthritic and I cannot easily open jars and cans. Honest to God, I lurk in my driveway looking for an available man to open my mouthwash bottle. That “press down and squeeze” maneuver is now outside my pay grade.
I am waiting for the appointment of a new fire department chief to bring up the issue of lock boxes on the doors of disabled and elderly folks. Many towns have this service. I wear a Life Alert bracelet that I can activate in an emergency. It calls 911 to send help if I am incapacitated. But how do they get in? My doors are locked. Will they have to break a window? If I had a lock box containing a key they could simply unlock my door. To do that they would have to have my code on record. Free lock boxes would not be a huge expense and would increase a feeling of security for older folks.
Suppose you do trip and fall, you might then need DME, durable medical equipment – wheelchair, hospital bed, cane, walker, in order to remain at home. That stuff costs big bucks. We have an AIP Loan Closet here in the valley with loaner items available. Call our phone line (802) 451-6941. Another solution is the Assistive Technology Exchange in New England, call (888) 827-2714 for new or used DME and assistive devices.
Living alone or as a couple in your home is not a cost efficient way to handle finances in retirement.
Anything you can do to lower costs could be very meaningful. Senior Solutions (formerly the Council on Aging) is teaming up with Efficiency Vermont to offer a service where volunteers come to your home and do a free assessment of your energy use. Call (802) 885-2758. They might help you with installing energy efficient products, such as light bulbs, shower heads, weatherization, and hot water heater insulation. I had an Efficiency Vermont contractor assess the old, unrenovated part of my house a few years ago. They suggested foam insulating for the attic. My heat bills are much less. The house stays warmer, and that nasty red squirrel has been forced to vacate my premises.
Someone said, “Age is mostly a matter of mind. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” It will matter a heck of a lot less if you get your ducks in a row early, plan for future glitches, and become knowledgeable about the many, many services that exist to help.