Tips on Eco-Friendly Home Adaptations for Grandparents
Although grandparents may recognize that they are getting older, few are willing to admit that living in the family home is becoming more difficult with each year. As limbs become stiffer and balance a little more unsteady, however, most would really appreciate some helpful adaptations to make their homes safer and movement less frustrating. While they have no desire to give up their independence, they are more frightened of having an accident that could cause a hip fracture or head injury.
I’ve found from personal experience that grandchildren can be very proactive in protecting elderly grandparents by assuming responsibility for changes around the home that could provide additional insurance against such catastrophes. As it’s important to my family and I to be as green as possible, I’ve also found ways that these changes can be made in a more environmentally friendly way. The following adaptations can be implemented to make life easier and safer for aging grandparents, while being mindful of the environment:
Adaptations that Assist with Movement
• Place ramps leading to all entrances of the home in preparation for walkers and wheelchairs, even if they are not currently being used. The elderly find ramps easier to manage than steps because they do not have to lift their feet to use them and are less likely to stumble.
• Attach hand rails along the walls of the home, especially in well traveled areas and in the bathroom.
• Make the doorways wider if possible even if this requires removal of a door. If you remove any doors, they can be reused by others rather than ending up in landfill. Try advertising them on the Freecycle website.
• If the home is on more than one level, consider purchasing and installing a stairlift to prevent your grandparents from having to negotiate the stairs, which can become a dangerous obstacle course for those with limited mobility. Reconditioned stairlifts are the greenest option because they are second-hand and often have only been used for a short period of time. Just be sure to buy from a dealer who will ensure it is in safe working order and backs it up with a warranty.
• In the bathroom, you could replace traditional tubs with a walk-in version or install a seat in the shower. Believe it or not, even an old tub can be recycled and doesn’t have to end up in landfill. Old tubs make great wildlife ponds in the backyard, and there are often people looking for them in my local Freecycle group.
Adaptations that Add Safety
• Senior citizens need as much light as possible, as cheaply as possible. Replacing their current bulbs with fluorescent ones is an eco-friendly way to achieve both these aims.
• Grandparents often have stiff joints and can benefit from an adjustable chair that aids them in rising. These can be purchased from a reputable second-hand dealer, and this is a green way to extend the life of a chair that may otherwise be discarded.
• Keeping the elderly warm is a matter of comfort and safety. It is a great idea to check the r-factor of insulation and add more if necessary. This will save energy and money for those living on a limited income.
• Lowering light switches and reorganizing cabinets can keep grandparents from reaching,using a step ladder or having to bend down to reach items. When reorganizing kitchen cabinets it’s a good opportunity to declutter and remove any items that are never used so that everyday items are easier to reach. These could be donated to charity or sold at a yard sale. If your grandparents have trouble lifting, consider replacing heavy cast iron pots and pans with lighter versions, which you may be able to find at thrift stores.
It is important to help our grandparents maintain their independence and enable them to remain living in their own homes as long as they can. By making some simple home adaptations, we can help them to do this safely and ensure the latter years of their life are as comfortable as possible. Fortunately, for those of us who consider the impact of our actions on the environment, most of these changes can be made in an eco-friendly way.
*This is a guest article written by Claire Bradshaw.