Home Furnishings that Help You Age in Place

age in place

If you’re like most people, growing old in your own home is your ideal scenario. According to a 2021 study by AARP, 77% of individuals aged 50 and older said they intend to continue living in their own home as they get older. Most understood that in order to do that, some changes to the home would be required. That includes the majority who would modify their homes with grab bars, work on indoor and outdoor accessibility issues, and opt for an emergency response solution. And while aging in place home modifications such as walk-in tubs, grab bars, non-skid flooring, and the like are standard changes you might expect to make for a more senior-friendly home, there is one other big aging in place solution that is often overlooked, and that is the furniture.

While keeping the home free of clutter and trip hazards is important, so is the placement of furniture – and the right type of furniture for your needs. Here are some of the best options for furniture that can make your life much easier and safer.

Lift Chairs: Assist with Balance

Many people have trouble getting up from a couch or chair. This can be true for anyone, not just the elderly! There has likely been a time when you stood up from your chair only to feel dizzy or weak and found yourself sitting right back down. If you have arthritis or some other medical condition that can make movement difficult, you are even more at risk of suffering a fall when you stand up from a seated position. Hearing issues are connected to balance problems, increasing fall risks. Some medications can lead to falling as well, thanks to a drop in blood pressure as you move from a sitting to a standing position or due to drug side effects.

A lift chair alleviates that problem. The chair itself moves, gently lifting you up and forward, providing the support you need to stand up on your own. The motion comes from inside the base of the chair and is usually activated by a button or switch. The ease of standing up prevents you from using your arms to push yourself up from a seat, a move that could lead to slips and falls out of a typical chair.

According to Forbes Health, there are three basic options for lift chairs:

·         The two-position chair that reclines to a 45-degree angle and has one motor, which allows the footrest to extend while the back reclines.

·         The three-position chair reclines to an almost flat position, making it ideal for those who need to sleep in a chair instead of a bed. The footrest and the backrest move with one motor.

·         The infinite position chair has two motors, one that controls the backrest and one that controls the footrest. This allows you to move the chair in a wide variety of positions for better comfort. Sometimes this is marketed as a zero-gravity chair.

Lift chairs can come in a variety of options that make life easier, such as a bariatric chair for those who are very overweight or an orthopedic chair designed with curves along the back or sides that better support someone who has musculoskeletal issues or pain when sitting for long periods of time. Some even have massage and heating features for even more comfort.

What if you want to simply purchase typical furniture that is more suited for an elderly person? Look for furniture that is easy to stand up from, such as narrow or shallow benches and couches. Some experts recommend a seat that is at least 19 inches deep and 21 inches wide[1]. You want a seat that is cushioned yet firm, so you don’t sink down into it – as good as this feels for sitting, you pay for the luxury when it’s time to stand up and you have to struggle to get off the couch!

Recliners are often quite useful, especially if you have a medical condition that requires you to sleep sitting up or keep your legs elevated. Some lift chairs are designed as recliners, so you get the best of both worlds in one piece of furniture.[2]

Adjustable Beds: Keep You Comfortable and Rested

When you think of an adjustable bed you might think of a hospital bed. While it can be incredibly useful, it’s certainly not attractive – and it can make you feel as though you are in a clinical setting rather than your own comfortable home. But today’s adjustable beds come in all sorts of styles and some of them look exactly like a typical bed, only with one key difference: the bed has a remote that allows you to lift the bottom, raise the top, or even adjust the firmness of the mattress to accommodate how you’re feeling that particular day. Serious back pain, for instance? A firmer surface might help, so you can adjust the bed accordingly.

While you’re shopping for an adjustable bed, lift chair, or any other aging in place type of furniture, you should also check out a medical alert device. That’s because any issues with mobility or balance call for an emergency response option that can reach out for help immediately if you fall or otherwise experience an accident in the home. Though home modifications can certainly be excellent fall prevention measures, it’s important to have the peace of mind that if anything happens, you’ve got assistance at your fingertips 24/7. This is especially important for those who may live alone.

Stair Lifts: A Must for Multi-Level Homes

Many of us live in homes with more than one level. In that case, what happens when it becomes tough to get up and down the stairs? The last thing anyone wants is a tumble down a staircase, as that can lead to very serious injury.

A stair lift alleviates the fear of falling down the stairs by providing a comfortable, secure seat that lifts you gently up the staircase. A stair lift can be configured in a variety of ways to accommodate longer staircases, landings, and even spiral staircase styles. To use a stair lift, you simply sit down in the seat, buckle the safety belt, and control the motion with a button or switch. The chair then moves gently up or down a track installed on the staircase. At the top (or the bottom), it stops in a flat area that allows you to stand up from the chair safely.

In addition to the obvious uses for the elderly, a stair lift can come in handy for those who don’t have mobility issues. Who hasn’t wished for something that would help them carry a big basket of laundry up the stairs? A stair lift can accommodate that need as well, so it’s possible that other family members who may live in the home will appreciate using the lift too.

Dumbwaiters and Elevators: The Easy Way Up and Down

These are more expensive aging in place solutions but they can make your home quite accessible to anyone, at any physical ability level. Dumbwaiters used to be quite popular and might still be found in older homes. They are essentially a box that travels between floors of a home and allows you to send things up or down with ease, such as a basket full of laundry, bags of groceries, or even a hot meal. Also known as a mini-elevator, this often requires some serious construction on your home to install, but it can be worth it if you want to continue living independently for as long as possible.

Elevators are great for seniors who live in multi-level homes, and today they are easier to install and much more affordable than they used to be. Residential elevators can take many forms, including hydraulic, winding, electric, and pneumatic elevators[3]. They are ideal for seniors of various mobility levels—assisting those in wheelchairs, those with limited mobility issues with going up the stairs, or simply those who want the security of carrying things up and down levels without worrying about the potential trip and fall hazards of a staircase.

Paying for Aging in Place Solutions

The cost of some aging in place home modifications can be daunting. For instance, a lift chair can run from $400 to $2,000 to much more, depending upon how specialized it needs to be[4]. The Sleep Foundation says that an adjustable bed can cost between $1,000 and $3,000. Bob Vila says that a stair lift costs an average of $6,000. The option of a dumbwaiter can run between $4,000 and $20,000[5], while an elevator for the home is often in the $30,000 range, on average[6]. 

Those are all pretty expensive. So how do you pay for them? Here are some tips[7]:

·         Plan on a tax deduction. Sometimes you can deduct the cost of home modifications from your federal income taxes. This is especially true if your doctor writes a recommendation that says a certain home modification is medically necessary.

·         Look for grants. Home modification grants from the federal government can help you pay for items that help accommodate those with disabilities. Home Advisor offers a detailed list.

·         Look to insurance policies. If you have a long-term care policy or even a homeowner’s policy, there might be provisions in that policy that will help cover the cost of modifications.

·         What will Medicare pay? Some Medicare Advantage Plans might cover some modification costs; again, this is especially true if your doctor states it is a medical necessity. Private insurance might cover certain changes as well.

Though some of these aging in place options are expensive, there are others that are not, and that includes the affordable Alert1 Medical Alert. These medical alert systems with fall detection are an excellent way to keep your confidence and peace of mind while going about your day-to-day life. Even if you are successfully using a lift chair, stair lift, or even an elevator, having that button at your fingertips means that no matter what happens, you have the security of knowing helps is on the way, no matter the time or situation, day or night.

Alert1 wishes you abundant health and safety!