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10 Ways to Make Your Loved One Feel at Home and Independent

Support an aging family member with household upgrades, new products

man seated in kitchen next to caretaker is learning to use a smartphone and smart speaker device

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Is your loved one aging in place? Part of helping someone do that successfully involves limiting risks — but at the same time allowing for Mom, Dad or another family member to maintain independence. Consider these smart choices around the house for added safety, autonomy and a sense of connection.

1. Smart speakers

These multipurpose devices function like voice-controlled virtual assistants: Ask to listen to music, set medication reminders, hear the weather forecast or even control compatible home fixtures such as a smart thermostat with the sound of your voice.

2. Nonslip rug grips

Slippery area rugs pose a fall risk and can be tricky to navigate for those who use mobility aids like a walker or cane. If you don’t want to remove area rugs altogether, consider adding a nonslip layer for safety: Opt for a nonskid carpet pad under each rug, or use adhesive corner grips or double-sided carpet tape to secure edges and keep corners from curling.

3. Digital photo frames

Bring the family photo album into the future with digital photo frames , which can cycle through favorite snapshots by using a USB memory stick or memory card or by connecting to your home Wi-Fi network. These digital photo frames let you post pics of friends, family and experiences, and a range of style options will let you match existing home decor.

4. Bathroom upgrades                                        

The bathroom is one of the places in the home where accidents are more likely to occur, says eldercare consultant Marcy Baskin, a certified senior adviser and managing director at Senior Care Authority. Age-friendly bathroom upgrades include grab bars (mount them in the shower and by the toilet), add-ons like a shower chair or raised toilet seat and, if possible, renovations like a walk-in shower and a wheelchair-friendly sink. 

5. Robot vacuums

Robot vacuums take the drudgery and physical strain out of vacuuming by working automatically to keep floors clean and clear of dirt, dust and other debris. Some even boast features like automatic emptying, or integration with a smartphone app or smart speaker for added control over scheduling and assigning cleaning zones.

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6. Lighting essentials

Adequate lighting throughout the home — including in hallways and spaces like the garage— is a key consideration for those aging in place, Baskin says. Take stock of any dark areas, both at night and during the day, and add fixtures or lamps accordingly. Another safety tip? Place a simple plug-in nightlight in every room.  

7. Door levers

Traditional doorknobs can be challenging to grasp and turn for those with arthritis or dexterity issues. Consider swapping out knobs for lever-style door handles, which are easier to use. Interior and exterior options with dead bolts and other types of locks are available.

8. Lever or touchless faucets

Don’t forget the faucets: As with doorknobs, lever-style fixtures are easier to use than traditional handles at the bathroom and kitchen sink. Looking to go luxe in the kitchen? Consider upgrading to a touchless faucet that uses a motion sensor to allow the tap water to be turned on and off hands-free.

9. Bedroom modifications

A few changes can make a big difference in the bedroom. Consider upgrading the flooring (low-pile carpeting is best, Baskin says) and investing in an adjustable bed for added comfort and ease of movement in and out of bed. If the bedroom is upstairs, Baskin says to consider relocating it to the ground floor for increased accessibility. 

10. Doorbell options

Age-friendly alternatives to traditional doorbells, which can be too quiet for those with hearing loss, include extra-loud models or those with a flashing light that indicates when someone is at the door. If security is a concern, consider a smart doorbell camera in order to screen visitors and receive alerts when a person or delivery is at the door. Be aware that some cameras require an additional monthly subscription fee.

Sarah Elizabeth Adler joined as a writer in 2018. Her pieces on science, art and culture have appeared in The Atlantic, where she was previously an editorial fellow, California magazine and elsewhere.