An old-age-appropriate home


bootcamp2015-small 2


In which I evade future manslaughter charges and accidentally make my home safer for old people.


My first task in the boot camp challenge was to upgrade my apartment for old age. Most people (I suspect) want to stay in their own homes until the day they die. We want to live independently, and if independence eventually becomes impossible, then we hope for a good deal of autonomy. Whether we succeed depends largely on ourselves, but it also depends on the type of home we have.

So, time to look at my apartment realistically.  Is this a home suitable for a very old person?

With age, a home needs to be safe, shareable and shipshape.

Safety is what other people worry about most

They worry that their elderly relatives or patients might slip, trip, fall, brawl, burn, have a turn, shake or break.

Now it’s not my top priority to live safely for the next 25 years: when safety is the focus of life, the fun is over.

My home renovations began after I (finally) noticed the horrible dangers I was inflicting on my visitors. My guest bedroom was upstairs. The only bathroom was downstairs. To get there, my guests had to walk 40 steps, half of them on a narrow staircase without a handrail. Even to get out of bed, unlucky Guest A had to clamber over Guest B. As I get older, so do my guests. If you’ve got a sore hip or prostate trouble, this night-time scenario could ruin your stay.

What a nightmare apartment for old people!

Finally I got the message. So it was for other old people, not myself, good heavens no, that I installed a second bathroom in a tiny storeroom upstairs. It was for other old people that I provided the mandatory handrail — a mere 17 years late. It was ridiculously easy. One visit to a workshop around the corner, one call to my trusty handyman, a few coats of varnish and it was done.

At my 75th birthday, the renovations for these other old people (not me, I don’t need them, I thought) went on show. They liked the bathroom. But they liked the handrail more.

And you know what? Every single time I go up or down the stairs, I grip the handrail. Of course I don’t need to, oh no, not yet. But hey, it feels so smooth and solid. And safe.

Image in the public domain.

8 thoughts on “An old-age-appropriate home

  1. Bernadette says:

    Your old peeps will appreciate your sensitivity.

  2. Dan Antion says:

    It’s always good to think ahead. We factor these things into our projects and we’re only in our 60s 🙂

    1. That’s a great approach because then the prospect of age-related problems becomes no big deal, just business as usual. And I bet you feel stronger and more positive as a result. Thanks, I’m learning.

      1. Dan Antion says:

        You’re still young 🙂

  3. You can never do this too early. I fractured my kneecap when I was around 60 and spent 4 weeks going up and down the stairs (my bedroom is on the second floor) on my rear. I was very grateful that my newer home had rails on both sides and I had my husband put grab bars everywhere. It’s amazing how grate they are for balance (even if we really don’t need them!).

    1. Ouch! I’m going to practise that one, just in case. But you were ingenious at problem solving!

  4. Val says:

    I can’t do without a handrail on the staircase, but I’ve needed one all my life. On the other hand, I slipped in the bath recently (for the very first time in my life) aged 60 something and I know for a fact that I can’t get up if I land on the floor, without getting myself first to the top of the stairs and then ‘sitting’ my way down one or two, then I can stand. And if still in the bath… that’s kinda impossible. So… I guess I should be addressing some of these issues too. Curiously, I’ve been thinking more about these since finding your blog. Maybe I’ll do it ‘for other people’ instead, too… (ha!)

    1. You do have a challenge on your hands. There’s a fine line between being prepared and being afraid of living, isn’t there? Doing it “for other people” is a good trick! I don’t know if this is any use to you but Feldenkreis classes showed me an easy way to get up from the floor, in a spiral motion. Getting to the top of the stairs after a fall gives you an impossible Catch-22, unless you fall upstairs. You’ve got me thinking. Good luck!