Disrupt Everything: Is Your House ‘HomeFit’ for the Holidays?

November 17, 2017 • AARP, Columnists

By Ron Mori

I have a feeling a lot of us are moving furniture around and finding extra extension cords to put up lights during the upcoming holidays. This is a perfect time to take a step back and take a self-assessment of your house or parents’ residence to make it safe and user friendly.

What do I mean?

Not only safe from extra extension cords and new floor plans to accommodate holiday décor, but really thinking about any lifestyle changes since last year that you need to address. One example: Your family Christmas tree is near a doorway that your parents or holiday guests might use to access a bathroom. Your tree might block part of the access, and a guest with a walker may have to go sideways to the bathroom. That’s not ideal, and it can be very dangerous with a full house during the holidays.

It’s also a time to assess if your appliances are in working order or are now difficult to operate due to your eyesight or manual ability to operate appliances. Again, time to be real with yourself or your older loved ones at this time.

I personally had to have this conversation with my mother over a toaster that had far exceeded the manufacturers’ life expectancy. In other words, it had seen better days and enough glue and homemade repairs to be in the Smithsonian.

Luckily, a colleague of mine reminded me of the fantastic program and resources that AARP provides called “HomeFit.”

Let me give you a sample of the content and tips that we provide:

First, you will need to take an assessment of the house/residence.

  • Does your house have steps that go up to the front door?
  • How wide are your doorways to your bathrooms? Kitchen? Bedroom?
  • Do you have stairs inside your house? Do you have handrails you can reach on both sides of the staircase?
  • Is your stairway straight? Curved?
  • What’s the size of the landing?
  • How many steps?

For each floor of the residence, do the bathrooms have:

  • Tub/shower combo
  • Shower
  • Grab bars
  • Tub bench
  • Shower seat
  • Comfort height toilet
  • Maneuvering space in the bathroom
  • And what’s the sink style?

Let’s move into the kitchen, which is a very important room for all of us during the holidays and New Year!

  • Is cooking going to be an important part?
  • Is there room to put a microwave on the counter? Is there room for the rice cooker!
  • Can one reach into the refrigerator and freezer without bending or stretching?
  • Can one prepare food at the countertops while sitting?
  • Is the stove/oven safe and easy to use?

What about doing the laundry? Would there be any difficulties to doing the laundry?

Can light switches and electrical outlets and thermostats be reached without bending or stretching?

As we age, our eyesight needs more light to see. Therefore, lighting in a residence is so critical to avoid falls, slips and accidents.

  • Are the rooms, stairways and hallways well-lit when you use them?
  • Do you have a night light in your bedroom, bathroom and hallways?
  • Do you have adequate exterior lighting to clearly see walkways at night?
  • Are there throw rugs in your home that someone might slip on?

These are just some issues you need to think about to keep someone at home safe. To access the information I provided above, you can start to take action by going to http://www.aarp.org/livable-communities/info-2014/aarp-home-fit-guide-aging-in-place.html.

The website has information on topics such as:

  • Is your Home “HomeFit”?
  • Tips for Specific Needs
  • Use This, Not That
  • “To Do” Lists
  • 22 Ways to Spend Less
  • Worksheets
  • Remodeling Costs
  • HomeFit Quiz

Happy holidays and be safe!

Ron Mori is co-president of the Washington, D.C., JACL chapter and manager of community, states and national affairs — multicultural leadership for AARP.

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