Aging at home or “aging in place” is a common wish for many people as they get older. While there are many suggestions on how to continue to live independently, those suggestions should also consider low vision. It is expected that the number of older visually impaired Americans will be eight million by 2050 — double the number that was recorded in 2016. Older adults with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), low vision, or blindness may have difficulty navigating through their home, taking care of themselves, or accomplishing daily tasks. Below are suggestions on how to make a more accommodating home for your loved one to help them keep their independence and quality of life.
Avoid tripping and falls
Falling is a major concern for seniors regardless of visual impairment. Making sure your loved one feels safe to navigate through their home without fear of an accidental trip can give them, and you, peace of mind. Bring in the appropriate professionals like occupational therapists and or orientation and mobility specialists can help avoid common trips and falls that occur in a home. Some of the few ways that could help reduce falls or other accidents include:
- Replacing worn carpet, rugs, and other floor covers.
- Securing area rugs with carpet tape
- Replacing coffee tables or end tables that sit low to the floor with taller items
- Eliminating cords from walkways or secure them to the floor
- Pushing in desks and chairs
- Moving anything that could obstruct the walkway
- Staying away from busy floor patterns like stripes. Distinguishing between floor items and furniture is easier when the flooring has basic colors and consistent textures.
- Cleaning and polishing your floors with products that won’t cause skids or glares, such as wax
Modify Lighting and Control Glare
Lighting is tricky and many things need to be considered. Appropriate lighting at home is vital, but that’s not simply adding more lighting. Too much lighting can cause glare that could pose a danger to your loved one. Glare caused by over lighting can decrease contrast. Avoid glare from over lighting and be aware of the changes of lighting throughout the day. We can help assess lighting in the home environment to improve contrast and mitigate glare.
Another element to consider are light switches in the room. Light switches that blend into the surface of the wall can be hard to locate, so replace older wall switches with new ones that stand out from the rest of the wall. Also, consider Smart Home technology when it comes to lighting. One of the key benefits of smart home powered lighting is the ability to turn on and off the lights by voice or via an app. Other lighting recommendations to consider include:
- Promoting natural light wherever possible
- Reduce glare from windows by using drapes, blinds, and other window coverings so one can easily adjust them
- Add floor lamps, table lamps, and clip-on lights in strategic spots
- Testing the best types of lighting for your loved one’s needs, like halogen, fluorescent, incandescent, or floor lights
- Have access to flashlights or strong keychain lights
- Ensure hallways have consistent lighting to recognize points where the light bends or ends
The kitchen is another vital space for a loved one attempting to age in place. This room can benefit the most from the utilization of smart home technology. Alexa specifically provides skills for the visually impaired and has an ecosystem of devices (like microwaves and other appliances) that provide greater autonomy and independence in the kitchen.
As stated earlier, lighting and glare are especially important. The kitchen can suffer the most from lighting and glare due to materials that typically make up the average kitchen. Items like ceramic tile, specifically ceramic tile flooring, can cause glares or become slippery when wet. Countertops can also suffer from poor contrast. This can be solved by differentiating between the edge of the countertop and the floor by placing a brightly colored strip or a similar decorative element on the edge of the counters.
Below are some other tips for the kitchen:
- Organizing or marking food and other items
- Use under-cabinet light strips
- Consider smart home appliances and other devices
Bathroom modifications are a necessity for anyone aging in place. Wet surfaces make bathrooms one of the most fall-prone areas in a house. Because of this, residential contractors will advertise their experience in bathroom remodeling for accessibility. Before involving a contractor, it’s important to work with a low vision expert in the initial planning and recommendations of the whole house. Simply making modifications in the bathroom doesn’t consider the entire living space. Other things that we consider in the bathroom are some recommendations specifically for low vision needs:
- Use brightly colored towels
- Adding an adjustable magnifying mirror to the wall to make basic grooming tasks easier
- Under-cabinet light strips
- General assessment of lighting and glare
It is important to address home modifications with a comprehensive approach and having realistic expectations on what can be achieved in the living space. The best way to do this is to talk to an expert and have someone give recommendations. Contact us today to set up a consultation on how we can help you navigate aging in place while considering you or your loved one’s specific needs.