Aging in Place

How to Create a Safe Space for Your Aging Loved One

Two local experts weigh in on how to navigate multigenerational living, with safety and fitness tips to increase quality of life.

By Kim Doleatto February 14, 2023

Check out these tips to make aging in place more accessible.

At a top contender for the best place to retire in the U.S., it’s only natural that the median age of residents in Sarasota County would be among the country's highest. Right now, it's 56.6 years old—about 18 years higher than the national median—and the number of aging populations is growing, according to the Census Bureau.

At the same time, multigenerational living has also become more popular, made even easier with the recent allowance of additional dwelling units (ADUs) in Sarasota County. They're fast becoming a mainstay feature of new home builds, which makes it easy to keep grandparents and kids close. Plus, the advantages of staying among family members are many. After all, this is how it’s done in most of the world.

Making living spaces safe havens for aging family members is essential. We asked two local experts how to do that, what to look out for, and ways to stay physically fit after 65.

Start With Cognition

Michael Juceam, the owner of Right at Home, a national homecare assistance franchise in Sarasota, says clients can sometimes miss out on the cognition aspect when determining whether at-home care is necessary for aging loved ones.

A good place to start is with the question, “Will the person at home be able to recognize an emergency like a fire, and will they have the physical wherewithal to do something about it?” If the answer to either is "no," that person needs full-time assistance, whether it be from a family member or hired caregiver.

"Other things to note when weighing cognition include how [the person] looks as far as cleanliness, and whether there's expired food in the fridge," Juceam says. "Are they repeating the same things? Are they taking their medications regularly? Also, look at their car and the walls of the garage for contact marks. Most of all, are these changes from the way things used to be?"

A memory care clinic will be able to formally evaluate your loved one if you have doubts or questions.

Create a Safe Living Space

Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among adults aged 65 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here are some things you can do to minimize the risks.

Avoid tripping by doing away with loose rugs, making the thresholds between rooms as flat as possible and addressing any raised flooring. Don’t forget walkways outside the home, too, and be sure to repair loose bricks or pavers. Ample lighting in high-traffic areas also helps.

Add grab bars in bathrooms and add a shower seat. If possible, turn the step into the shower into a ramp. When these physical changes aren’t possible, some clients hire a caretaker to be there for bathing.

Ensure wide enough passageways around furniture, especially for a walker or a cane, and consider clutter the enemy.

Build Balance and Strength

Brian Werner, co-founder and physical therapist at Fyzical Therapy & Balance Centers, specializes in fall prevention. 

His average client is roughly 84 years old, and some of the most common issues he sees include muscle weakness. 

 “If you’re weak, you can’t walk as far, or stand as long, and that leads to immobility, which leads to joint degeneration, and then dizziness," he explains. "Whether it’s pain or balance issues, if we work on lower extremity strength it helps." It can even address dizziness, another common cause of falls. 

Werner says these three exercises are his top prescriptions.

Sit and stand exercises for strength: “Do 10 sit-to-stands a day. If you can do that, do 20 a day, and get to 30 when you feel ready. It could take three months to get there so stick with it. Start with the chair in the dining room or the couch.” 

Stand on one foot for balance: “Start with five seconds on each foot, then do it five times with each. Then work your way up to 10 seconds. That might take 3 months, but the ability to do it has been shown to decrease morbidity. Start with doing it in the corner so you have support if you need it.”  

Go walking. “People don’t walk enough but just 20 minutes a day makes an impact on the overall quality of life,” he says.

To learn more about aging in place with at-home assistance, click here. To learn more about how to gain strength and stay fit, click here.

Show Comments