Mobility problems are expected in one’s senior years. In Salt Lake City, 1-in-3 seniors will have some sort of mobility issue and some of them rely on the use of wheelchairs. Normal homes aren’t built to accommodate wheelchairs — however, a few changes could make them more accessible, allowing senior wheelchair users to maintain their independence. Whether you are buying a house or renovating an existing one, you need to make sure it is safe and accessible to seniors.
Access ramps and wide clear spaces are essential in making a house mobility-friendly. Consider replacing doorknobs with lever-type door handles and install double-hinged doors for easy wheelchair access. Get rid of unnecessary clutter on the floor — as well as rugs or any other item that can snag or hinder a wheelchair.
Lower light switches to make them easier to reach or opt for voice or motion-activated lighting options to avoid accidents during the night. It would be advisable to move the bedroom downstairs in a 2-story house. However, if that isn’t possible — consider installing a home elevator. It can cost upwards of $20,000, but they are a lot safer than stairlifts.
Moving to the bed should pose no problem if it is leveled to the height of your wheelchair. Keep your bedding simple, preferably tucked under the mattress. Adjustable bed rails should help you transfer in and out of your bed, as well as prevent you from falling.
Working in a normal kitchen is problematic from a wheelchair. Overhead cabinets won’t get much use — so consider installing custom cabinets that slide out instead of opening. Countertops can be hollowed out so a wheelchair can slide inside it — but the height can make access clumsy or dangerous. Lowering the countertop is a better option — allowing it to be better seen and reached from a sitting position.
Kitchen appliances should have front-facing switches with outlets that are easy to reach. Opt for a side-by-side refrigerator instead of the models with the freezer up top. Fire alarms should be properly checked and maintained and opt for alarms that connect to emergency services if you’re living alone.
The bathroom is the most dangerous room for seniors — more so if you’re in a wheelchair. Doors need to be wide enough for your wheelchair to pass and the floor should be free from any obstructions. There needs to be enough space to reach the toilet easily and the toilet should be raised to the level of the wheelchair. Grab bars on or near the toilet seat should make transfers easier and safer.
Tubs are out of the question. Getting in and out of one is difficult and dangerous from a wheelchair. Walk-in showers with built-in seats should allow you to stay clean. However, if you prefer relaxing baths instead of quick showers — opt for a walk-in tub. Walk-in tubs are specifically designed to help seniors and people with mobility issues. They require very little space and are easy to use.
Maintaining one’s independence is priceless. Spend a bit of money to make a few changes to your house and you can live on your own for a longer period.