Ideally, many of us want to maintain our independence for as long as possible – and there are many adaptations we can make so we’re secure. Whether you’re living in an apartment, a retirement village, a land lease community or your family home, here are some ways to make your home age-safe.
But I don’t need to worry about this! you might think. I’m fit, active and in great health. That may be true now, but it’s a wise idea to think about your strategy for ‘ageing in place’ well ahead of when you need to.
First of all, get to know your neighbours. Feeling part of your local community is important at any age, particularly as we get older. There are the obvious social and mental health benefits, but there is also the fact that good neighbours will look out for each other.
If you have neighbours you know and trust, consider swapping numbers so you can check in on each other. One of the many benefits of moving into a retirement village or land lease community is that people will quickly notice if something is amiss.
Adapt your home
If your kids have grown up and moved out, the first thing you might want to think about is a big declutter. Even if you’re not planning to downsize just yet, your job will be a lot easier if you decide to later on. Take time to go through your belongings and sell, donate or swap what you no longer need. Facebook Marketplace, eBay or your local Buy Nothing group are all places you can pass on or sell what you no longer need. There’s also a safety element: Statistics show that one in three Australians aged 65 or over suffers a fall each year, and any fall can result in a loss of independence. A pared-back home is not just easier to manage; you are less likely to trip and fall if your home is uncluttered.
Once you’ve had a good clear-out, consider removing floor rugs as they are trip hazards, and replacing hard flooring with wall-to-wall carpet or cork, so that if you do fall you won’t be badly injured. Ensure that all walkways are clear of shoes, furniture and general clutter to reduce the risk of falls.
In the kitchen, drawers under the bench are easier to manage than deep cupboards that can become harder to access as we age. Lever-style handles are easier to use than round ones on doors.
Look at your lights and power switches and ensure they are safe and accessible. Do you need extra lighting; for example, wall lights for reading in bed or better-lit hallways or staircases?
Also, look at your bathroom. An open-plan space is safer than a shower cubicle or shower over a bath, so if you have the funds, consider renovating. Other things you could think about here include grab bars over the bath, in the shower or near the toilet, and non-slip bath mats.
My Aged Care is a great place to start if you are wondering if you or your parents are eligible for any government assistance.
Home security systems are affordable and easy to install, and will give you peace of mind if you live alone. A video doorbell (that might require you to take out a subscription) allows you to see who is at the door and will record all visitors. Your home is less likely to be broken into if you have obvious security features, such as a camera, a sensor light or an alarm.
A dog is another well-recognised burglar deterrent, and great for getting in that daily exercise. Check with your local shelter to find a suitable dog; senior dogs are generally trained and easier to manage than puppies.
Review all your windows and doors and ensure they are secure. Locking internal doors from the inside makes it harder for burglars to access the rest of the house, and a simple wooden rail will stop sliding doors and windows from being forced open. If you haven’t changed your front door lock in a while, consider upgrading it to a stronger one – especially if you’ve lost track of a few spare keys over the years.
Finally, remember to look after yourself. Many people move into nursing homes due to a fall, which can mean having to leave a much-loved home without warning. Exercise ‒ from Tai Chi and yoga classes to daily walks ‒ will reduce this risk. And if you want to maintain healthy bones, do some weight training. Look at what is available at your local community centre or within your retirement village or land lease community to find a class that will help you preserve your mobility and strength.
Want to learn more about making the most of your next 30 years?
We’re committed to making life better for the over 55s. Check out downsizing.com.au for more insights and great advice on living life to the fullest.