Anyone who’s raised children or has grandchildren understands the concept of baby-proofing a home. Well, given certain risks and limitations we face as we get older, I think we should give some thought to boomer-proofing our homes.
Now, I’m not talking about the usual advice that experts dispense to help folks remain safe in their homes as they age – things like having grab bars in the shower, securing or removing scatter rugs to prevent tripping, or strategically placing nightlights. These things are certainly important, but there are other practical considerations that could not only greatly enhance our safety but also help us maintain our quality of life. To wit:
Store wine glasses at an easily reachable height
Eliminate the risk of throwing out your back or losing your balance when reaching for stemware. In our home, this is a frequent occurrence (the reaching, that is), so wine glasses are stored at eye level. Same advice applies to any often-used items.
Invest in an easy-to-use corkscrew
This is especially important if you a) have carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis in your hands, wrist or elbow, and b) drink wine. For the ultimate in bottle-opening ease, choose an electric (battery-operated) corkscrew. Manual options include a lever-type corkscrew (like the Rabbit, which has always reminded me of a speculum); you simply clamp the device on the bottle and let the levers do all the work). The winged corkscrew is cheaper and doesn’t take up as much storage space, but does require turning.
Ditch the heavy pots and pans
I know, I know – All Clad and Le Creuset are respected, high-quality brands. But jeez – have you tried lifting those suckers? They could snap an osteoporotic wrist in a, um, snap. Get yourself some lighter pots and pans. Or go out to eat.
Use seat cushions or buy padded dining chairs
For those of us who are gluteally challenged (i.e., our aging derrieres have dropped and we are therefore flat-assed), sitting on a hard dining chair can put our butts to sleep by the end of a meal. This, in turn, can make walking difficult when it’s time to leave the table. So if your posterior lacks sufficient padding, put some on the dining chairs.
Buy stuff that automatically shuts off
If you tend to get distracted and wander off while, say, boiling water for tea, don’t risk burning down the house. Get an electric teakettle that automatically shuts off when the water has boiled. Yes, you can get a whistling teakettle, but if your hearing isn’t what it used to be, you might not hear it from another room. You can also get irons, humidifiers and dehumidifiers, coffeemakers, curling irons and other small appliances with automatic shutoffs. Also, always set the timer when you put something on/in the stove so it’ll alert you when it’s done (most newer ovens can be programmed to turn off when whatever you’re cooking is done). Or go out to eat.
Sit down or lean on a wall when pulling on socks, leggings
Certain items of clothing are best put on/taken off while sitting down. One morning few years ago, I was challenging myself to balance on one foot while I pulled a sock on the other foot. And I fell over sideways. Fortunately, I was in the closet and clothes on the lower rod broke my fall, so only my dignity was bruised. The irony was that I was taking twice-weekly tai chi classes at the time (you know, the martial art that’s supposed to help with balance). The experience convinced me to lean on a wall or sit down when pulling on apparel like socks, pantyhose and leggings.
Limit your exposure to magnifying mirrors
While a magnifying mirror is necessary for plucking the rogue facial hairs that sprout at our age, it’s strongly recommended that you use the smallest mirror possible. This way, your reflection is limited to the hair-infested area (trust me, seeing your entire face in a magnifying mirror is only going to make you feel self-conscious about crater-sized pores and ravine-like wrinkles). On a related note, NEVER look at your reflection while bending over to clean a mirrored tabletop. Suffice it to say that gravity is not our friend.
Seriously, though, as we get older, we do need to pay attention to how we can make our homes as safe as possible. Studies show that the kitchen and bath are the two most dangerous rooms in the home, inspiring this haiku:
Most home accidents
happen in kitchens and baths.
One fix: eat out more.
So, what do you think? What suggestions do you have for boomer-proofing the home?