Adapting a Home to Meet Seniors' Changing Needs, From the May 2014 Harvard Health Letter

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Adapting a home to suit an older person's needs can help him live there longer.

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A home should evolve as its owners' needs change. What's right for a 40-something may not be safe for someone who is older. Simple changes can sometimes make a big difference, reports the May 2014 Harvard Health Letter.

A good place to start is in the kitchen. Rearrange storage cabinets and drawers so food and cooking utensils are on lower shelves. "There are so many accidents where people try to reach for cans of food on high shelves, or stand on stools to reach something and fall," says geriatrician Dr. Suzanne Salamon, an instructor at Harvard Medical School. Invest in lighter-weight pots and pans to accommodate strength loss in the arms. If needed, a contractor can lower countertops and cabinets for people in wheelchairs.

Another area of focus is the entryway. Arthritis and other problems can make it tough to turn a round doorknob. An easy fix: install lever handles on doors. These require only a push downward.

Other ideas:

  •     Bathrooms: Nonstick mats and treads offer traction on slippery tile and bathtub surfaces. Grab bars are especially helpful for people with balance issues. Install them in shower, tub, and toilet areas.
  •     Bedrooms: If possible, move to a room on the first floor. It should be located near a bathroom.
  •     Hallways: Install automatic nightlights in electrical outlets and rocker switches for lights that are simple to push on and off.

Read the full-length article: "5 steps to adapt your home as you age"

Also in the May 2014 issue of the Harvard Health Letter:

  •     Cognitive training can keep the brain sharp
  •     Neck pain relief: what to do and what not to do
  •     What's your caffeine IQ?

The Harvard Health Letter is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $16 per year. Subscribe at or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).


Media: Contact Kristen Rapoza at hhpmedia(at)hms(dot)harvard(dot)edu for a complimentary copy of the newsletter, or to receive our press releases directly.

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Kristen Rapoza
Harvard Health Publications
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