Aging in place can be one of the best options for anyone who really loves their home and community, and who doesn’t want to live out their last years in a nursing home or assisted living facility. As it happens, if you don’t want to leave your home and you’d rather age in place, there are more options today than ever before. You can rearrange things and retrofit some others and create a home you can get around in easily, even if you live alone.
This Area of the Home Often Gets Overlooked
It happens for two reasons: First, this area of the home is tucked away from sight most of the time. Second, this area is actually several areas, spread all through the house. What is this area? It’s your closets, drawers, and shelves, along with cabinets, baskets, and other types of storage solutions. No matter what kind of storage you currently have in your house, and how much of it you really use to its fullest potential, there are probably at least some changes you can and should make if you plan to age in place.
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to storage solutions as you age in place, including how much room you actually have, short-term vs long-term storage of particular items, giving some things away, re-organizing the items that are staying, and if you can get to important things safely.
For people who age in place, the need to change things as they age can be frustrating. It can also put them at risk of harm because they may not want to focus too much on the changes. They may want to just keep doing things the same way they’ve always done them, instead of admitting that they are struggling and need a little extra help around the house. Medical bills and other needs can also suck-up the elderly’s financial assets, so getting things done when it’s affordable is the best way to go.
Hiring Professional Help for Your Closet & Storage Changes
There are a number of ways you can make changes to your storage and closet areas. One of those ways is to hire a professional organizer. If you’re not comfortable making changes yourself, or if it’s not something your health will allow, then getting someone to help can be your best option. A lot of elderly people are cautious to ask for help, however, maybe it’s because they don’t want to admit that they can’t do something themselves anymore, or because they don’t want to spend the money. It can also be because they aren’t sure who to trust or who they can call to give them the help they really need as they age in place.
If you decide to hire a Professional Organizer, be sure you’re getting one who does the type of work you’re looking for. A general handyman, for example, might not be who you would want to run a new electrical circuit for your closet lighting. Instead, be sure to hire an actual electrician to reduce the risk of fire and other types of problems. Same is true for an Organizer – don’t hire the one that specializes in office organizing, but one that specializes in aging in place organization. This type of organizer helps seniors keep their sense of independence along with dignity.
Choose the Right Shelves, Bars, and Rods
Older homes often have closets with wooden shelves and rods, while newer homes may have plastic-coated metal shelves, along with metal rods or bars. Both of these options can work well for most people, but they aren’t always ideal for the elderly or the physical-challenged population. For example, a wooden shelf that is only sitting on its support and not secured can be pulled loose. Especially if you start to fall and grab the shelf for support, you certainly don’t want that shelf coming down on your head, foot, or anywhere else. Also, the lack of support probably won’t stop you from falling, which just compounds the hazard situation.
High shelf units are not a good choice for you as you age. Because the aging process will sometimes diminish your range of motion, giving you more difficulty reaching anything that’s placed out of your scope of reach. Adding more shelves at a lower height can help you reach things more easily, but you can still use your higher shelving too. Just make sure the things you put up there are placed there securely to reduce the risk that they could fall off and hit you. Also, be sure you’re only putting things up there that you don’t use too much, so you can avoid needing to access that high-shelf often. The more organized your things are, the easier it will be for you to age in place without worry or stress.
Assess the Weight of the Items You Are Storing
One of the biggest problems for people who age in place is not being able to lift items the way they had in the past. They may have stored something on a high shelf for years and may be surprised by the weight of it even if they’re still very mobile and can lift it easily. You don’t want to get something partway off of a shelf and then realize it’s heavier than you expected it to be. When a comforter or blanket falls on you, there’s very little chance of getting hurt. But if you have heavier boxes of items stored up high, the risk of injury is much greater, and a dropped item could result in a serious accident or injury.
What doesn’t feel too heavy now could feel much heavier as you age, so moving things before you think you need to is generally the way to go. The heavier an item is, the closer it should be to the floor, to prevent from lifting it above your head or reach up high to grab it. At the end of the day, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so as you age in place, heavier items should make their way to lower shelves, and lighter items should move to higher ones.
Another consideration for heavier items that you know you’ll be using is to find a way to store them where they can be moved more easily. You can shop around, say, for example, small crates on wheels or boxes with good latches and sturdy handles. All of those are good choices when it comes to moving items around. The more independent you can stay when you age in place the better, shifting heavier items into more convenient spaces is an excellent, early safety precaution.
Is It Time to Let Go of Those Things?
One of the most difficult things you’ll have to face as you age is letting go of items that might have sentimental value, or might still be of use. Downsizing your possessions can be liberating and can help you get organized, but the process can also be stressful and difficult. Whether you can use everything in your closets or not, many of the items will still hold precious memories—and yet it may be time to let them go. Whether you just need the extra room or want to make room for other things that you’ll be needing as you get older, a reorganization of items and a purge of what you don’t need any more can really help.
As you decide what to keep and what not to keep – think carefully. Ask if you’ll have any practical use for it. Also consider what kind of sentimental attachment an item might have, to consider if it’s something you’ll want to pass along to your heirs. Will they want that item you’ll be giving them? If you think they will, and you won’t be using it anymore, why not give it to them now? Then you’ll know where it is and that it went to a good home, without having to worry about it taking up precious storage space in your closet.
After all the sorting and purging, you can have a yard sale, or donate things to charities or needy families in your area. You can also sell things, just be very careful about doing that if you live alone. Always meet in a public place, and take someone with you. Don’t ever let a stranger come to your home. Elderly people can be more at risk for scams and physical harm from others, so it’s a good idea to be sure you’re taking adequate steps to keep yourself safe from strangers as you age. Being afraid isn’t necessary, but there’s nothing wrong with being cautious.
Aging in Place Organizing
Do your wants and needs fall within this growing trend? You may consider staying in your home because it is familiar and comfortable. You want to have the freedom to live as you wish. Along with this decision comes many considerations that must be researched. Health and safety are a prime concern that must be addressed when planning to age in place.
We can help you customize a transformation for your home to be safe, organized, and aesthetically pleasing so that you can continue to live there, feeling secure and prepared for this time in your life.
- Assess the interior and exterior of the home
- Create floor plans
- Sort through and assign items in your home to go to family, donation, and disposal
- Organize your home environment for accessibility as well as aesthetics
- Include family, friends, and others in participation with your hopes and desires
- Integrate appropriate technologies as needed
- Coordinate with outside work referrals as needed
Contact me today for a 30-45 minute complimentary consultation to answer your questions and concerns and plan your customized professional organization of Aging in place process.