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Home changes can help seniors age in place


    There are simple modifications to help make a senior’s home more safe, that also won’t cost much. One example is to organize the kitchen so cabinets holding frequently used things are within easy reach without using a step stool.

Dear Savvy Senior: What tips can you recommend to help make a home safer for aging-in-place? — Concerned Son

Dear Concerned: There are dozens of simple modifications you can make to help make a senior’s home more fit for aging-in-place, that won’t cost much.

Eliminate Trip Hazards

Since falls are the leading cause of home injury among seniors, a good place to start is by moving furniture so there are clear pathways. Position electrical or phone cords along the wall so they won’t pose a tripping hazard. Remove throw rugs or use carpet tacks or double-sided tape to secure them.

In the bathroom, buy some non-skid rugs and a rubber mat or adhesive nonslip strips for the floor of the tub to prevent slipping. Have a carpenter install grab bars in and around the tub/shower and near the toilet for support.

Improve Lighting


>> All the products mentioned can be purchased in local retail stores, home improvement stores, pharmacies or medical supply stores, or online at
>> For more tips, get a copy of AARP’s “HomeFit Guide” that’s filled with dozens of aging-in-place recommendations at, or by calling 888-687-2277 for a free copy.

Good lighting is very important so check the wattage ratings on lamps and light fixtures, and install the brightest bulbs allowed. Purchase some nightlights for the bathroom and in hallways that are used after dark. Consider adding under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen, and motion sensor lights outside the front and back doors and in the driveway.

Hand Helpers

If your mom has arthritis or problems griping, install lever-style door handles, which are easier to use than doorknobs. The same goes for twist knob kitchen or bathroom faucets, which you can replace with a single lever, touch or sensor-style faucet. Replace knobs on cabinets and drawers with easier-to-grip D-shaped handles.

Easier Living

Organize the kitchen so cabinets holding frequently used things are within easy reach without stooping or using a step stool. Install pullout shelves beneath the counter and Lazy Susans in corner cabinets for easier access.

In the bathroom, consider purchasing a shower chair and install a hand-held shower head for easier and safer bathing.

Accessibility Solutions

If your mom or dad uses a walker or wheelchair, you can adapt the house by installing ramps on entrance steps, and mini-ramps to go over high thresholds. You can install “swing-away” or “swing-clear” hinges on doors to add two inches of width for easier access.

Safety Improvements

Set the hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or below to prevent scalds. Put handrails on both sides of staircases.

Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on all levels of the house, and place a lightweight, easy-to-use ABC-rated fire extinguisher in an easily accessible location in the kitchen.

Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit

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