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MAKING PLANS: My husband and I are making plans to age in place. The goal is to live out our years together — independent of others — in our own home.

Taking steps to watch my step into the future

Aging in place requires planning.

I love my basement. It’s hard to fathom living in the South, where most houses are built on slabs. It doubles the square footage of my-not-so-big house. It provides lots of storage. A side-by-side, full-size refrigerator and a chest freezer allow for overflow from upstairs and bulk buying. I’ve got shelving for pantry items and all my canned tomatoes and other garden goodies. Also in the basement are the laundry and another living room with a big-screen television.

So, you can imagine, I’m up and down those stairs several times a day — got to eat, got to have clothes and sometimes, well, I just don’t want to watch hubby’s wrestling show.

Built in the 1950s, the stairs are much steeper than currently allowed by code. As I’ve now gotten my AARP card, I’m viewing these stairs with different eyes than I did 20 years ago — both literally and hypothetically. The peepers are not nearly as sharp as they used to be, but it’s the “hypothetically” that really concerns me. What if, as I age, my knees won’t bend, my hips ache, my strength is nil — or once finally making it down the stairs, I can’t remember what I went to retrieve?

Some say aging is the pits. I disagree. There’s lots to be thankful for, and — in my case — a new granddaughter this year. And, as my dad always says, it sure beats the alternative. But, aging does come with physical limitations and challenges.

My husband and I are recognizing potential problem areas and making contingency plans. The goal is to live out our years together — independent of others — in this house. This year’s project includes ripping out the cast iron tub and putting in a walk-in shower. The stairs will be next.

Ideas for aging in place

Lisa M. Cini, an award-winning senior living architect, author, speaker, and president and CEO of Mosaic Design Studio, offers these suggestions when thinking about designing senior living communities, which could also be applied to your home, so you are able to “age in place”:

1.  Adjust the heights of sinks, stoves, washers and dryers, showers, shelving and cabinets.

2.  Declutter and organize trailing electrical wires to avoid slips and trips.

3. Add banisters, and check for looseness on stairs, railings and decks.

4. Light up dark hallways and closets with motion-sensor lights to prevent falls.

5. Install handrails and/or grab bars next to the toilet and in the shower to stay steady.

6. Get tech. There’s a bevy of technology for health, fitness and mobility aids, as well as things like stove safety alerts, home security systems and communication devices.

7. Make flooring safe with anti-slip rugs. Consider a contrasting color for steps and rails to make them easier to see.

8. Keep things within reach, including a phone for emergencies. Set up speed dial for favorite contacts. 

As for our steep basement stairs, they will be redesigned with more slope. But for right now, I run up and down them. Why? Because I appreciate that I can!

Learn more about Cini at blog.lisamcini.com.

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