Let’s start with the basics. How well is your home protecting you? Can you move about the house easily and safely? Are pathways clear of throw rugs, cords and cables, and other obstacles that could cause you to fall? Are floors in the kitchen and bathrooms non-slip, and what about the tub or shower? Are the items you use most often within sight and easy reach? Are closets and cabinets organized so that you don’t have to stretch too far or stoop too low to find what you need—and without starting an earthquake or an avalanche? Are there working smoke alarms in key locations, such as the kitchen and hallways? And when is the last time you checked that fire extinguisher to see if it was charged?
You’ve worked hard to keep up your home. Is your home working hard for you? Do doors and drawers open easily with pull or levered handles, or do you have to wrestle with clumsy knobs? Can you turn the kitchen and bath faucets on and off easily with a single lever or sensor? Are surfaces stain-resistant, germ-resistant and easy to clean? Do you roam from room to room turning switches on and off, or do sensors light the way for you? If the light level changes in the room, do you have to get up to adjust the light, or can you conveniently control the lighting with a dimmer remote control?
When you have work to do, is your home working with you or against you? Do you have adequate task lighting in the kitchen, workroom, home office or hobby room that provides adequate illumination without creating annoying glare? Are countertops and work spaces at the appropriate height? Can you reach the microwave, appliances, sink, faucet handles and appliance knobs without having to strain or reach over a heat source? Is there a heatproof counter nearby to rest that hot pan when it comes out of the oven or microwave?
With a few minor, low-cost modifications, your home can be a safe and comfortable support system that makes your life easier by doing more work so you don’t have to work as hard. You can spend more time enjoying the things you like to do, and less time caring for your home. Plus, many of these modifications will help reduce energy and water costs as well. Invest a little in your home now, and you will reap the benefits for years to come.
Michael Berens is a freelance research, writer and editor with extensive experience writing on aging and design.