Accessibility for Seniors Living at Home

With warmer weather coming, it’s a good time to think about things you can do to improve the safety and accessibility of the exterior of your home, to maximize independence in the face of life changes and unexpected challenges.

Steps and Footpaths

As we age, changes to vision and balance can make it difficult to detect and recover from trip hazards. Since landscaping materials such as patio slabs, bricks and flagstone can heave through the freeze-thaw cycle, make sure to do a visual inspection every spring for any shifting that could lead to falls. Footpaths should be well-lit, even, and made up of slip-free surfaces.

Stairs should also be inspected to make sure they remain level, stable, and in good repair. If you are hoping to rebuild steps with accessibility in mind, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation recommends:

  • Choose slip-free treads that are at least 11 inches deep, with minimal nosing
  • A rise of 6-7.5 inches between steps is ideal for those with more limited mobility
  • Lighting should be such that all step edges are clearly visible
  • Handrails should be at adult elbow height (35-38 inches from the tread)

Make sure to check your local building regulations for any requirements specific to your area.

Ramps and Lifts

Although many people don’t think of installing entryway ramps until it becomes a necessity, ramps can be a practical addition to a home at any time. Ramps designed for wheelchair accessibility must meet certain criteria, including a gentle rise no steeper than 1 inch for 12 inches of length, and a minimum width of 39 inches. The design of the ramp will depend on the configuration of your property, including the height of your entryway, and location and slope of your yard and driveway. A well-designed ramp can be both practical, and attractive.

If your entryway is more than 30 inches off the ground, a more compact approach may be to have a lift installed. However, in areas where snow and ice may accumulate, lifts will need to be sheltered to protect mechanical functioning. Retire At Home carries a variety of lifts and other equipment to maximize accessibility both inside and outside the home.

Front Entryway

If your front door is due for an upgrade, there are many practical features you can incorporate to improve accessibility with minimal additional expense. A door that provides at least 34 inches of clearance when open will accommodate most wheelchairs and walkers. A flat, or ‘zero’ threshold will not only be easily navigable by wheelchair, but will reduce the possibility of tripping.

Pull-handles reduce the need for grasping or twisting, which can become difficult and painful over time. Coded locks can also be easier to manage than keys, which can be difficult to find if dropped. Provide an easy-to reach adjacent surface that is big enough to accommodate any bags and parcels that may need to be put down while opening the door.

Ensure the entryway is brightly lit. Well-placed motion-detector lights will ensure the visibility of paths and entryways at all times. Motion-detector lights can also improve security by deterring thieves. A peep-hole installed at eye level will also allow you to see who’s at your door before you open it.

If you have questions about making your home safer and more accessible, contact Retire-At-Home today for a free in-home consultation of your needs. We can provide advice on accessibility equipment and supplies, and offer a variety of personal care services to help you maximize your health and independence in your own home.

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