Gadgets and tricks to age in place

Thinking ahead and preparing your home environment may enable you to live longer and safely in your home. Many changes are simple, inexpensive, and easy to do yourself and allow you to remain home despite physical and mild cognitive limitations. There are commonly used low-cost and adaptive devices (e.g., bath benches, hand held showers, and automatic lights) online (like Amazon) and possible free at loan closets and non-profit health charities. These personal gadgets and recent technological advances not only have made aging in place more feasible and affordable by enhancing your safety, reducing your effort, and maintaining/regaining your independence, they reduce the associated frustrations, and boost confidence.

Tremors and arthritis are common impairments in older adults, and can affect the ability to live longer at home safely. A wide variety of adaptive devices can assist with daily activities (such as eating, dressing, bathing, and preparing meals) improving your grip, dexterity, and steadiness. There are wearable devices; nonslip, suction, and silicone-based items that secure plates and bowls to the table; and alternate handle, weighted and larger handled utensils. Some of the more sophisticated gadgets include:

  1. Robotic vacuum
  2. Safety doorbells to view who’s at the door (even if you’re not home)
  3. Voice activated devices like Alexa and Google Voice that turn on/off, adjust and change lights/music/temperature and more, call someone, and give you reminders
  4. Smart watches with fall detection sensors can automatically alert someone
  5. Medication systems that automatically dispense at the correct time

Consider the weight, size, ease of use, safety and return policy when making a purchase. Understand your specific needs. A “lightweight” step ladder to one person may not be lightweight enough if you have pain, weakness, or other limitations. Pay attention to safety concerns. If it’s electric, or gets hot, does it have an auto shut off or temperature limit? Check dimensions. Wheelchairs need to be wide enough to fit you and a winter coat, and high enough that you can easily get in and out of it. Walkers and wheelchairs need to be able to fit through doors and hallways, and allow you to turn in the bathroom. Will you be able to push it over carpet and outdoor surfaces? If it’s a used device, check that all parts are in good working order and secured.

Keep cell phones fully charged and flashlights handy. If your medical devices operate or recharge on electricity, inform your local fire department and utility company to prioritize you in the event of a fire or electricity outage. Maintain a 3-day emergency stash of bottled water, working flashlights and fresh batteries, shelf stable food you can open and eat without devices, important numbers written down, extra oxygen tanks if appropriate, blankets, and if possible, a 3-month supply of medications.  

Stay in your best possible health. Get regular vision and corrective glasses checks; visual problems cause many falls. Keep moving. Walking requires no special skill, place, or equipment, except a decent pair of shoes. Stay well hydrated unless you are on a fluid-restricted diet. Stay mentally challenged. Like your body, if you don’t use it, you lose it. If you aren’t getting a good night’s sleep, talk to your doctor. Sleep cleanses your brain, recharges your body, and keeps your immune system strong. 

Planning ahead to age in place is insurance; if you are set up and the unforeseen happens and debilitates you, you’re covered. Without it, should something happen, not only will you be scrambling to correct it, it may be unaffordable or not feasible to make changes in time. Even if the issue is not permanent, it could be the difference between home or spending some time at a skilled nursing facility.

Jay Berger

Jay Berger

Jay Berger, PT, is co-founder of VirtualKare. To learn more contact support@virtualkare.com, call 360-930-9633, or visit www.VirtualKare.com.

This column is hosted by the Seniors’ Council of Douglas County. For more information about our monthly presentations, meetings and events please visit www.MyDougCoSeniorLife.com, call 303-663-7681, connect with us at facebook.com/MyDougCoSeniorLife, visit our YouTube channel or email us at dcseniorlife@douglas.co.us.

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