Seniors: 10 keys to an easy-going home


Liz Gregg

Living alone at home when you are a senior citizen: this is possible provided you arrange the accommodation, to secure it against falls ...

"It can sometimes do little to improve the everyday life of a senior who lives at home, and also to give him more autonomy." It is Didier Salon, architect specializing in housing the elderly, who says. When a client uses his services, the architect begins by studying his needs, his habits and his desires: "everything depends on the motor, sensory and cognitive capacities of each one". Then, the "tailor made" is the only truly possible answer. The desire to combine well-being, security and accessibility with the autonomy and independence of the elderly person is paramount. "We are looking for the least medical equipment possible and what is best for the medical" insists Paul Joly, another architect.

1. Provide points of support

A piece of furniture skillfully positioned in the house, a wall-mounted grab bar at the right place: these are two simple ways to make moving around the house easier. "They are both supporters and guides," note the architects. All rooms and "routes" made in the house must be "secured" by points of support.

2. Adapt the furniture

In addition, simply transformed furniture is an invaluable aid to make everyday activities easy: a bed raised with taller feet or wooden wedges, the seat of a reinforced seat, a cupboard equipped with a suitable height handle, etc. A box bed with remote control to raise the back also offers a "practical comfort".

3. Color and contrast

This is a path to explore as well to alleviate visual or cognitive disorders (associating a color with a piece of furniture makes it possible to fix its function) and thus facilitate the movements in the house. How? By installing colored handles on doors and cupboards, colored markers on buttons on appliances, or using contrasting strips to signal a change of flooring. "On the other hand, it is better to avoid the contrast of flat surfaces (for example black and white tiles), very misleading," explains Didier Salon.

4. Decluttering the space

Low furniture, carpets and electrical wires left on the floor can cause falls. This risk can be partly remedied by making sure that the space is clear, especially in transit areas and around the bed.

5. Enlighten

Sufficient lighting and no shadows are needed everywhere. Ideally, the switches are placed at a height adapted to the entrance of each room. Did you know ? There are switches against electric shocks.

6. Rearrange the cupboards

Moving objects of common use in the most accessible closets, at a maximum of 1.30 meters from the ground, is clever and it can facilitate many things ...

7. Automate

Home automation is not automatic. It secures the house and allows remote management or programming in time: shutters, gate, heating ...

8. Secure the bathroom

The bathroom of an elderly person should focus on two things: anti-fall equipment and ease of access to sanitary facilities (bath, shower, toilet). Non-slip floors, grab bars, curtain or splash-proof wall: there are many amenities and accessories that make the bathroom safer and easier to live with. Break a bathtub to install a shower instead? Yes, provided that it is really useful to embark on such a project. The bathtub can indeed be suitable for someone with no motor difficulties in the legs and "allow better support" notes Geoffrey Guimberteau, occupational therapist and regular collaborator of architects. As for the shower, it favors an ultra-flat receiver, without edge to cross.

9. Rethink the layout of parts

Bringing the bedroom closer to the bathroom and the toilet, for example, limits travel. "Preferably, a new housing will be designed on one level", note on the side of professionals.

10. Adapt your environment

Before having to move, other, heavier works are also possible: the installation of non-slip floors (preferably hard, continuous between the inside and the outside, with marked differences in level), sliding or folding doors and windows, possibly equipped with shutters, or with a suitable acoustic coating. But, small equipment or big work, the important thing is to anticipate, agrees one to say among the architects and the National Association of Occupational Therapists (ANFE). "You buy a house?" It's a good time to install easily dismantled walls later or provide for the evacuation in the ground for the shower.