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Aging in place and optimizing your safety at home

Last update on Feb, 28, 2024

As the American population ages, many seniors are opting to age in place rather than moving to retirement or long-term care facilities. But what does it take to make a home senior-friendly, so that aging in place is a viable option? In this article, we’re sharing steps you or a loved one can take to create an optimized home environment—plus some additional factors that make a home safe for aging in place.

What is aging in place?

Aging in place is a phrase that encapsulates the idea of people continuing to live in the home of their choosing—either their own or a multigenerational household—as they age, instead of living in a nursing home or senior living community. For many, aging in place is appealing because it offers a greater sense of independence and continuity in living life on their terms.  

That’s not to say that people who opt to age in place don’t have any assistance in day-to-day life; many are supported by family members, friends, neighbors and in-home help. Access to necessary support and services is what helps maintain a good quality of life—an important factor when aging in place. 

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Those who thrive with aging in place are connected to their community, giving them a social outlet as well as the practical support they need. 

Factors to consider when aging in place

Is aging in place right for you, your aging parents or your loved one? It’s a very personal decision, and there are several factors you should consider as you try to find the right option, including:

  • Limitations and needs: Think through mobility, hearing health, vision and dexterity. An honest assessment of current capabilities and challenges will help you to identify the adjustments and support you may need to successfully age in place.
  • Your home: What might need to change now or in the future to make it aging-friendly? Assessing your living space and the financial implications of making adaptations for aging can help you determine the feasibility of living there long-term.
  • Your lifestyle and goals: Thinking through your desired levels of activity, community engagement, travel and more can help guide you to the best choice for your priorities.

If you or your older parents want to age in place, these tips can help you turn your home into an ideal environment for you to live—both now and into the future.

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Aging-friendly home improvements

A 2022 study conducted by AARP showed that 77 percent of adults aged 50 and over want to remain in their homes as long as they’re able. 

But that same study also found that around one-third of respondents would need to make changes to their current home to safely and comfortably stay there as they aged. It’s an important reminder that you may need to make changes to your physical spaces, whether it’s rethinking the layout of your living room or making accessibility adjustments.

Especially for seniors living independently, it’s important to be fully aware of your surroundings—and that means keeping your senses sharp. Hearing decline is often a natural part of aging (there’s even a specific term for age-related hearing loss, presbycusis). If yours starts to change, don’t hesitate to get a hearing test and work with a professional to improve your hearing.

Aside from hearing aids, room acoustics are important for aging in place, ensuring that you can hear everything you need to (like alarms, notifications, creaks) and want to (like conversations, music and TV). Large, echoey spaces can make sound reverberate in ways that make listening and detecting certain sounds more difficult for people with hearing loss. Small tweaks to your space can improve your home acoustics, making it easier to hear those important sounds.

Need some practical options for how to improve room acoustics? The good news is that some of the options can also add extra comfort and beauty to your spaces. Adding sound-absorbing materials like more drapery and upholstered furniture can help dampen the sound. Carpeted floors and window treatments can make a huge difference in improving acoustics, as can larger, padded furniture. Even hanging artwork on your walls can help with sound absorption. If ambient sounds continue to be an issue, installing acoustic panels for home use is another way to acoustically treat a room for increased sound absorption.

Your hearing care professional at Miracle-Ear can also help tailor the settings of your hearing aids to your particular environment and lifestyle.

Accessibility updates can make a huge difference in your day-to-day life. Here are some changes to make, room by room:

  • Bathroom: Accessibility and safety features in bathrooms are particularly important. Installing grab bars near the toilet and tub or shower helps with fall prevention. A taller toilet (17 to 19 inches, is recommended in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)) or a raised toilet seat can make sitting and standing easier. If it’s in the budget, consider replacing your original tub or shower with a walk-in option, where there’s no ledge or lip to step over. For added stability when bathing, add a shower chair or bench as well as gripping to the floor of your tub. Lastly, a non-slip bath mat is an absolute essential! 
  • Living room:  Remove clutter to ensure walkways are wide and clear of tripping hazards. Specifically, consider removing low coffee and accent tables, which cause a lot of falls. If you have any large area rugs, secure the edges to the floor using carpet tape.
  • Bedroom: To make getting in and out of bed easier, opt for a bed that’s 20–23 inches high, per ADA recommendations. You may even want to invest in a bed with an adjustable mattress; this lets you adjust the position for reading, watching TV or sleeping, but also helps with getting in and out of bed safely and comfortably.
  • Entryway, hallways and stairs: Remove small accent rugs that bunch up or slide around. Consider installing grab bars along hallway walls, and non-slip traction tape to your stair treads. These are also good areas to install light strips or motion-sensor lights for better visibility. 

Home safety and security features for seniors

Home safety for the elderly has two different but equally important aspects—safety in terms of health, but also safety in the form of home security. With these simple home safety tips, you can improve both.

It’s important to have the right products and accessories that make it safe to live on your own.

  • Mobility devices—whether a cane, walker, rollator, or wheelchair— help you navigate your home with ease and minimize your risk of falling.
  • High-quality hearing aids are equally important. Many people, especially those who live alone, remove their hearing aids when they’re at home. However, it’s been shown that hearing aids can improve balance, which can help minimize falls. Good hearing also ensures that you’re fully aware of your surroundings and can hear if the phone or doorbell rings, or if an alarm goes off.
  • Medical alert systems or devices are wearable pendants or wristbands with an emergency assistance button. When you press the button, you’ll be connected with an operator from the alert system’s monitoring center who can call a loved one or send an ambulance. Some even have automatic fall detection, so you’re automatically connected with the operator if you fall. These devices can offer peace of mind to you and your loved ones as you continue to live on your own.

A home security system can help safeguard from intrusions and theft, adding a necessary degree of safety for seniors at home. Many modern security systems also have call centers that can check on you or alert the police in the case of an invasion or an at-home accident. This type of safety measure can offer a lot of peace of mind, especially for those living alone.

Modern home doorbell systems that include video surveillance of your front door are another great option. They support home security but can also help alert you when packages are being delivered or when someone stops by to visit. Many systems have the capability for you to talk to the person at the door through your phone, before you reach or open the door.

When aging at home, technology is your friend! Embrace these new possibilities, not only for your safety but also for your enjoyment.

●        Bluetooth hearing aids and accessories: Many hearing aids now have Bluetooth connectivity. Using your hearing aids, or with the help of accessories, you can watch TV, listen to music and make phone or video calls, and the audio is sent directly to your ears.

  • Smart speakers: Devices like an Amazon Echo or Google Assistant are much more than a speaker—they can be used to make phone calls, create grocery lists, do internet searches, turn your lights on and off and so much more.
  • Keyless entries: If dexterity challenges make it hard to handle keys, swap out normal door lock systems with smart locks. By using a key fob or entering a code on the door, you can lock and unlock your home without fumbling with small keys.
  • Rechargeable hearing aids: Make changing those tiny hearing aid batteries a thing of the past with rechargeable hearing aids. Miracle-Ear offers a variety of hearing aid chargers to make charging your hearing aids quick and easy.

man and woman wearing glasses on couch
As mentioned above, it’s important to actually use the devices and accessories you have at home to support you. Keep your hearing aids in during your waking hours to help train your brain to hear better. Wear your glasses to ensure you can see where you’re going. And don’t risk falling if you have any balance concerns—use your cane or walker when navigating your home and wear a medical alert pendant or wristband. It’s also important to keep mobile phones charged and nearby in case of emergencies.

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The benefits of aging in place

There are many benefits of aging in place. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it’s linked to reduced healthcare costs, improved quality of life and increased social connectedness. While quality of life and social connectedness might simply sound like “nice to have” things, they have real repercussions for health. The CDC also cites studies showing that social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes and was associated with roughly a 50% increased risk of dementia.

When aging in place is done with a carefully considered plan that ensures safety, seniors can thrive on their terms. As the years pass, it’s important to regularly evaluate how things are going, to maintain safety and determine if any changes need to be made. 

Finding the help you need

If you’re interested in aging in place but want help optimizing your home for your current and future needs, turn to aging-in-place services and specialists.

An aging-in-place specialist or an occupational therapist can come to your home and evaluate your physical needs and space, going through the National Institute on Aging’s Home Safety Checklist. A specialist can suggest potential improvements and help you think through the factors that go into making them. If you need to make structural changes, contract a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) to do your remodeling, as they’re specifically trained on modifications for aging in place.

If you need extra support for household tasks or medical concerns, or want to explore funding programs for home updates, turn to aging in place resources like your local agency on aging or the nationwide Eldercare Locator, a public service of the Administration on Aging (AoA), can help you find resources in your area. 


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Your hearing health is our priority

When it comes to your ongoing hearing health, turn to your local Miracle-Ear hearing center. Our hearing care professionals can conduct regular hearing exams and help you find cutting-edge hearing aids and accessories that make living on your own safer and easier.

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