Aging in Place Options Part 1


By Kaye Swain

As a real estate agent in Washington I love finding useful items like this built in shower seat in the houses I help to buy or sell.jpgAre you overseeing your elderly parent who is still living in their own home? Or are you considering having them move in with you? Either way, good aging in place options are an important part of the equation. What is aging in place and what would those options be?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines aging in place as "The ability to live in one's own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level."

One way of putting it more specifically for our beloved elderly  -  it's creating a safe environment for an elderly parent that continues to be safe as their abilities to move around easily may be deteriorating.

Over the past few years, some key points for my senior parents and myself have included:

No stairs, or very few stairs, for them to navigate. 

We have two steps at the front and back door of our current home, which is single story. Even those have become more difficult for her and eventually we may have to add a ramp to make it easier for her to navigate. A railing would be another great option but since we're renting, that may not work for us right now.

At our last home, we had two stories. But we made sure there was a bedroom and a bathroom with shower on the first floor so she never had to use the stairs at all.

Grab Bars in the bathroom 

When I bought a new home many years ago, I knew my senior parents might move in as my dad's Parkinson's Disease was definitely progressing. I bought the house early enough to allow me to make modifications and I had grab bars installed in both main bathrooms.

These were a tremendous help for them when they visited and later when they moved in with me. But they were also a big help for me when I broke my ankle. And on those days any of my family members, even my young grandkids, were feeling weak due to the flu or a bad cold, we ALL appreciated those grab bars. They are very handy in so many ways! You can even place the ones outside the shower in the spot a towel rack would go - making them truly double-duty

If you're renting you can also find suction cup grab bars. They are not as good as the installed ones, but they ARE a good option in lieu of those.


If you are thinking of replacing your toilets, I highly recommend extra tall toilets and elongated. Those are so much easier for senior parents - men and women - to use and will be a tremendous help for them.

If you can't replace the toilet, there are heavy plastic extenders available at your local medical supply store. We've had a couple. One had "wings" that acted like grab bars. Very handy, but we eventually replaced it with a higher one that did not have wings. My mom definitely used those wings after a surgery she had, but eventually she thought they kind of got in her way so preferred just the extender. Either way, they can be a big help. One minor caveat - if you have young grandsons who visit often, make sure they either have another bathroom available to use or it's a type they can use OK.

Shower Seats

Grab bars are great to prevent falls. But seats in the shower can be very useful as well for a wobbly senior. Of course, the built-in seats, like the one in the picture above, are the best. However portable ones can be quite handy as well. That way they can sit for the majority of the shower - standing only when absolutely necessary. The portable types come in a variety of sizes and shapes so you should be able to find one at your local medical supply store or online to fit any size shower or tub. The nice thing about going local is that you can take it home, make sure it fits, and exchange it if it doesn't. Our store was wonderful about working with us like that and we really appreciated them.

Shower Hoses

These have been the biggest blessing for us for all ages! My grandkids loved having showers at my house since I could wash their hair easily and control the soap from getting in their eyes. I appreciate the handiness of a shower hose as well. But, as you can imagine, they have been the biggest help for my senior parents. They're especially useful if your parents are  using them with shower seats. Some hoses have an on/off button right on the hose which is extra helpful. Then they can turn it on, get wet, turn it off, soap up, turn it on and rinse - all very easily.

Well that's plenty of ideas to start with in the bathroom. What about the rest of the house? Be sure to check back for Aging In Pace Option Ideas - Part 2.



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