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By Gretchen McKay

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

If home is where the heart is, it’s no surprise the vast majority of seniors want to stay put as they grow older in the homes where they raised their families. Often, it’s a good option, considering the cost and stress of moving to a nursing home or assisted living facility.

Not only is the space familiar, and often paid for, but allowing aging parents to stay in their own homes reinforces their sense of independence.

A whopping 77 percent of Americans 50 and older want to remain in their current homes, according to an AARP 2021 survey — despite the fact that many homes lack key features such as a first-floor bedroom or bath to accommodate older residents’ special needs.

As we age, we don’t see or hear as well, and we also lose strength. Weakening leg muscles can make older adults less sure on their feet, leading to trouble walking, reaching into cupboards and climbing stairs.

Every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 million older Americans trip and fall — one fall every second of every day — with one in five falls causing serious harm. Falls, in fact, are the leading cause of injury-related death among adults 65 and older.

You’re ahead of the game if mom or dad’s house is among the 10 percent of homes in the U.S. that the U.S. Census Bureau considers “aging ready” with senior-friendly features like a step-free entryway, wider doorways, a built-in shower seat or a wheelchair-accessible kitchen.

Short of a major construction project, what can you do to make your older family member’s home safe? The following tips and quick fixes should help:

For starters, ensure they are safe from falls.

Get rid of scatter rugs (they’re easy to trip on) and secure area rugs by placing a nonskid carpet pad under each, or securing edges with double-sided carpet tape.

It’s also a good idea to place a nonslip or rubber mat around the sink and place slip-resistant strips or shapes in the shower and bathtub. A raised toilet seat will also help those who struggle with getting on and off the toilet on their own.

Steps are another challenge. Your loved one might not be able to afford a motorized chairlift to get to the second floor, but there are ways to make going up stairs less risky. If the steps have carpet runners, make sure they’re securely attached; to prevent wipeouts on wood stairs, add nonslip treads or strips.

As elsewhere in the house, it’s also essential to keep stairs safe with bright lighting (wall night-lights can help) and a clear, clutter-free path. Installing a sturdy railing will provide stability.

Speaking of clutter, take a hard look at furniture and accessories and get rid of anything that obstructs pathway….

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