Ease and Accessibility
Make certain your home fits you, rather than you adapting to your home. With advancing age, joints, skeletal and muscular system are affected. This results in reduced strength, stamina and loss of flexibility. We also loose height in our spine. The net result is that older adults can no longer reach as high, bend as low or maintain the physical activity for the same length of time as they could when they were younger. Furthermore, Arthritis tops the list of chronic condition of older adults.
- Install handrails on both sides of steps or stairway.
- Provide horizontal blocking in walls between 30” & 36” high for future installation of additional handrails.
Door and Cabinetware
- Doors should have lever handles, rather than round knobs.
- Seeing the key hole and turning the key can be difficult for older people. Electronic locks are available that can be opened with a proximity card or swipe card (similar to a credit card). These can also be programmed to allow access to certain users at specific times only, which provides security when you are away.
- Cabinet hardware should be easy to grasp with arthritic fingers. A simple wire pull seems to work best.
- Cabinet hinges that have a wide swing (150 degrees) allow greater access than the narrow opening doors.
- Thermostats and light switches should be placed at 48" high.
- Electrical wall outlets should be raised to 18" – 24” for ease of access.
Proper seating is very important for older adults. Sofas and chairs that are too low, too soft, and too deep presents a hazard regarding hip fractures. C. Everett Koop, MD, former surgeon general, highlighted this problem is his PBS program Forever Young where he demonstrated how a hip is broken before a person falls. The problem occurs when the chair or sofa is closed (solid) under the seat, not allowing the seated person to get their foot underneath them to push up with their legs to a standing position. In lieu of this support they rock back and forth to gain momentum. However, once they are standing they turn their forward foot side ways to stop this momentum (so that they don’t fall forward), at this point the hip socket breaks.
and Activity Chairs
These chairs must be easy to 1) move away from a table so that one can sit down, 2) pull up to the table while seated, and 3) push back from the table while seated. Casters on all four legs should be avoided, for people not only push themselves up using the arms of the chair, simultaneously they push the chair back in order to stand up. If the chair scoots out from underneath them before they have steadied themselves in a standing position, they fall. A sled-based chair slides easily without sinking into the carpet.
Solutions for Seating
- Use high arms to help when sitting down or standing up.
- Use light-weight furniture for easy maneuvering.
- Provide a variety of seating options so people can choose what is best for them.
- Seat height range from 17” to 19”
- Recommended lounge seat depth is 20” with no more than a 1” slope front to back.
- The front of the arm should be flat and designed to grasp easily when sitting or standing.