Recently my 85-year-old mom tripped and fell in her kitchen.
She survived with minor bumps and bruises, but it got me thinking about senior adults in general, and how important it is to ensure living spaces for the elderly are safely organized and comfortable.
But clearing out living areas for the elderly has its own challenges. Here are some things I have seen as I work to help homeowners coordinate their spaces:
- Kitchen cabinet in disarray
- Unreachable items on top shelves
- Cluttered pet areas
- Difficult-to-reach laundry room storage
- Home office clutter
- Dangerously stacked books and magazines
- Hallways with fall risks
- Improper use of throw rugs and carpet
Here are some tips on helping an elderly homeowner live safely and comfortably:
1. Begin with respect.
This applies to any homeowner, but is especially important with the elderly, as many items we consider clutter, are actually what's been referred to as "memory vessels." They spark fond memories and therefore are important and must remain on display. So, for example, instead of insisting a stack of magazines, or table full of figurines be immediately tossed, I first inquire, "what do you want to keep? Then, after we sort, I can box up and label the other items, or, if they're discards, donate or dispose.
2. Focus on the biggest issues first.
Sometimes the issue is not as much decluttering, but rearranging or editing the entire space. For my mom, we re-worked the bar stools and moved a throw rug - two items that caused her to fall, as she tripped on the rug, grabbed the bar stools, which slid easily and enabled her fall. For other elderly residents, it means getting rid of unneeded furniture and revising the floor plan to allow easier access.
3. Think about home renovations if needed.
For my mom, this included a discussion on moving her laundry room to the first floor. We are now in the process of laying out a closet area and installing a washer/dryer combo near her bedroom. This was the most inexpensive remedy that didn't include tearing out walls.
Organizing living space is important for any age, but it also enables senior citizens to remain independent at home.
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