This article by Lynn Wilson is republished with permission from The CareGiver Partnership
Aging in place and green living are important lifestyle considerations right now. We’re continually discovering products and technology that allow us to age in place — to stay in our homes, safely and comfortably, for as long as possible. At the same time, we all want to live in healthy, easy-to-care-for, energy-efficient homes. Here are some ideas for incorporating green strategies into designing a home focused on aging in place.
When a house is designed to take advantage of natural light, it requires less artificial lighting, offers improved visibility, and saves energy by making temperature control easier. In winter, leave curtains open during the day to let the sun in, then close them at night to hold in the heat. In summer, close curtains during the day to block the sun, then open at night to let any heat escape. When artificial lighting is necessary, make sure it’s bright and within easy reach, with no cords running across pathways.
Making a home safe and friendly for seniors can include major considerations, like eliminating stairs, expanding doorways, building a first-floor bedroom/bathroom suite, and making sinks, counter and appliances wheelchair-accessible. But there also are smaller projects that can go a long way toward improving mobility and living independently. Try installing levered faucets, easy-grip cabinet and drawer hardware, and nonslip flooring. Since many falls happen in the bathroom, install grab bars in showers and near toilets, bath benches, and elevated toilet seats or safety rails.
Reduce energy consumption with safe, easy-to-maintain Energy Star appliances, electronics, lighting and windows. Conserve water by replacing old shower heads and faucets with low-flow fixtures. Ask your electric and gas provider if you qualify for an energy audit, rebates or other programs to help offset the cost of upgrades.
Monitoring and safety
Many of us, who have been fortunate to age in place safely, have technology to thank. Without the latest in safety devices, we wouldn’t have the peace of mind that is the cornerstone of aging in place. Consider a phone made for seniors, with amplification, big buttons and talking caller ID; emergency products like Guardian Alert 911, for 24/7 remote access to 911; smoke detectors with strobe lights for the hard-of-hearing; and monitored, automatic medication dispensers, such as E-Pill, which will call, text or e-mail a caregiver if medication is not taken.
An important part of aging in place is making caring for a home more manageable. Cut down on grass that needs mowing by making your yard more natural, with low-maintenance native plants and trees, which also provide shade that can cut cooling costs. Driveways and walkways made of gravel, pavers or other permeable systems not only allow rain water to reach the ground, but they can offer seniors a safer, less-slippery walking surface if well maintained.
Renewable, recycled materials
When building or remodeling, ask your contractor to use materials that are low-maintenance and support our environment for future generations. Examples are wood species that rapidly renew such as bamboo, finishes that are low in volatile organic compounds, and recycled-content materials in carpeting, siding, concrete, decks and fences.
About the Author
Lynn Wilson founded The CareGiver Partnership based on her experience in caring for loved ones as well as providing the highest level of customer service. She takes pride in offering personalized service that helps her customers find the best solutions for their individual needs. Now that her children are grown, Lynn enjoys spending time with her granddaughter while also helping to care for her mom. Sources: AgingInPlace.com: Green Aging in Place; Wisconsin Public Service: Energy-Saving Tips