Are your parents having trouble getting around or out of the house as they get older? Are they still independent but living with afflictions that affect mobility, such as arthritis or multiple sclerosis?
Your parents might own their own home, or they may be moving in with you or a sibling, but know that there are ways to help no matter the living arrangement.
You can only help your parents address obstacles that you know about – encourage openness, and play an active role in the management of the household as your parents age. Let them know that improvements add value to the home and bring everyone peace of mind. Some of these improvements may even make it easier for your parents to entertain overnight guests or other older family members. Everybody wins. We’ll help you get started.
Homes built outside of the past couple of decades had no influence from accessibility laws or guidelines, outside the specific context of retirement communities. Wide doorways and easy-to-grip doorknobs were rare considerations. The good news is that you can help your parents address the needs that they feel are most pressing without going overboard.
The best place to focus is the bathroom. The good news is that improving bathroom accessibility is sort of like giving the bathroom a spa-like makeover. We think walk-in showers are a great investment, especially if they have a low-profile threshold, because they are compatible with both shower benches and shower wheelchairs – a smart long-term solution that can adapt to the needs of your parents. Save money and provide better access with a walk in bath tub or conversion kit. Some of the more luxurious walk-ins are styled like hot tubs for shoulder-deep soaks.
The bathroom is only the beginning. Think about introducing your parents to the idea of lever-style knobs for cabinets and doors if muscle control or strength is a problem, suggest the idea of upgrading windows so they are easier to open and more secure to lock, and consider adding a stair lift if your parents have reported difficulty getting up or down the stairs.
Mobility within the home is important but real freedom comes from being able to enjoy the community and outdoors. Wheelchair-friendly entrances and exits are important even if neither of your parents currently use a wheelchair – the low door thresholds and potential to add a ramp will come in handy later. Extending the stairway so that the steps have a lower profile will encourage physical activity and will provide better access to the outdoors.
Is driving out of the question or soon to be out of the question? A year-round bus pass makes a great any-time gift, but if public transportation is not an option you might consider loading a pre-paid credit card for use with taxis.
Adding a solid garden path outdoors can improve accessibility to the yard. If your parents cannot go out on the town often, the best gift you can give is to make the backyard more accessible and welcoming. Do they enjoy watching birds? Do they enjoy light gardening, or grilling? A little bit of smart landscaping can infinitely improve the possibility of outdoor recreation.
Obtain a copy of your local ADA or equivalent building guidelines for more inspiration. There are so many ways to help your parents as they age, and the starting at home is a great way to improve independence and quality of life. Owning an accessible home means that anything is possible so your family can start enjoying life right now instead of worrying about what curveballs the future may throw.
Natalie Sage is a freelance article writer that blog contributor! Natalie focuses on medical, health and self-development related topics to help keep everyone focused on maintaining a healthy lifestyle.