Firstly, between you and I, there a few brutal truths that mean making a home age-friendly isn’t just a bit important – it is screamingly, desperately urgent! Why?
1. Fail to plan…. :
An unsafe home can lead to, otherwise avoidable, accidents or illness that result in unexpected crisis points for the household and their support network – meaning decisions are made in haste, with little time to reflect on a good range of choices. If you reduce the risks at home, you can delay the difficult moments.
2. Residential Care is rarely a first choice option:
People rarely move into residential care settings in a planned fashion, and it doesn’t have to be the inevitable next step in ageing after an accident or illness – In fact, only 4% of people say they ever want to move into a care home. (We aren’t saying care settings can’t be fabulous, they can, but they aren’t always a first choice)
3.Residential care and even domiciliary (home) care is expensive – very expensive:
Residential care costs around £36,000 per year, but in more expensive areas can be upwards of £50,000 per year. It is estimated that around 1 in 10 people over 65 years old face care costs of £100,000 or more. (So spending a few hundred, or even a few thousand, pounds on home adjustments seems like a bargain don’t you think?)
There is a major shortfall in the human capital (people) in the domiciliary care system, making it harder to find good quality, reliable carers. Would you like to have a roll-call of strangers coming into your house every day? (So many carers are brilliant, but it is not always possible to see the same person each time and this places the onus on the family to make sure their loved one gets the care and medication they need each day)
5. Few people are eligible for State-funded Social Care
Firstly, State-funded social care (delivered via Local Authorities) is reserved for a very small section of the population. Secondly, the numbers who are eligible for funded care are reducing each year, despite the number of older people increasing. Most people will be self-funders, and may need to sell their assets to fund their care.
And so, it stands to reason that the longer you can delay the need for home care or residential care, the less stressful and less costly the ageing process is likely to be. And age-friendly home can’t fix all of later life challenges, far from it – but we promise you, it will help.
Is it Cold in here, or is it just me? Keeping a healthy home is important for everyone.
We all know that fresh air is good for us – but do you know how to keep your indoor air healthy? When is the last time you checked your indoor humidity levels? The more humid the air in your home is, the colder you are likely to feel – and the higher your heating bills will be too!
In the colder winter months it is only natural to want to keep the warmth inside and the cold out. But, by hunkering down and closing your windows, you might inadvertently be adding to the problem of cold and damp weather. You might even be creating unhealthy humidity levels inside your home.
There are many daily activities that can cause high humidity, including:
Us – we breathe… a lot!
Showering and Bathing
Washing and Cooking
And the more of these we do, the higher the humidity level will be. Moreover, the problem is compounded further by a lack of ventilation due to a missing trickle vents in windows, closed-tight windows or not using air handling units. The truth is, without extracting some of that damp air, we are creating unhealthy homes that can make us ill.
High levels of humidity are damaging to our health and our pocket! High humidity:
Makes a space feel colder, after all, you are sitting in a damp-air soup that takes longer to heat up than dry air and feels colder to the skin
Promotes the growth of mould, some of which produce toxic mould spores
Increases the risk of respiratory infection
The healthy range of humidity in the average home is between 45-55% (but a range of 40-60% is sometimes acceptable). We at Living Well at Home Ltd will often come across homes with excessively high levels of 80% or more – and the household had no idea!
It is easy to purchase a device that will let you keep an eye on your home’s health. A low-cost monitor (called a hygrometer) like the ThermoPro TP50 from just £10 will measure your humidity and room temperature reasonably accurately (within 2-5%). Or alternatively you could opt for an all-singing, all-dancing monitor that will measure humidity and other forms of pollutant in the home. These range from £120 to well over £3,000 (!) – but are a worthwhile investment in our opinion!
What to do if you have high humidity at home:
Try to work out the specific causes of the humidity:
If your windows lack trickle ventilation think about sporadic ‘flushing’ of the air. To do this, open all your windows and doors for 5-10 minutes at a time, to replace all the indoor air. If you do a quick ‘flush’, the fabric of your home shouldn’t lose too much heat, it is just the air that you are replacing.
(In the longer term, think about getting trickle vents installed into the frames, or replacing your windows)
If you dry your freshly washed clothes indoors all the time, think about investing in a Dehumidifier. This is a compact, plug-in machine that sucks damp air in and extracts the moisture from the air.
Think about whether your bathroom, kitchen and utility has a good quality extractor fan. We like the Humidistatically controlled versions, where the fan is activated once the humidity reaches a certain critical level. As a result, regardless of whether you are using the bathroom or not, the fan will do its work.
Finally, if you are planning a Grand Design then a high quality air handling system will do the work for you.
Grand Designers and Home Refurbishers – Is your home the right kind of HAPPI? [No, that isn’t a spelling mistake]
HAPPI is is a design code of 10 principles for a healthy, social and comfortable home life.
HAPPI homes have plenty of light and space with a focus on healthy homes. They also integrate accessible age friendly design features like bathrooms with walk-in, curb free showers. Although the HAPPI reports are primarily focussed on the shared living environments like retirement communities, most of the principles hold true to individual homes too:
Space and flexibility
Daylight in the home (and in shared spaces)
Balconies and / or outdoor space
Adaptability and ‘care ready’ design
Positive use of circulation space
Plants, trees, and the natural environment
Energy efficiency and sustainable design
Storage for belongings and bicycles
(External shared surfaces and ‘home zones’ – for communal living)
(Shared facilities and ‘hubs’ – for communal living)
Our homes have a big part to play in staying independent as we age. If you need these changes because of an illness, degenerative condition or accident you likely need some additional specialist input – so who else should you go to? An O.T. (Occupational Therapist)will help you align your aspirations and abilities with your environment by undertaking an assessment of you – that is what they specialise in. The value of OT – to you and your loved ones should not be underestimated.
Make the little changes first, engage the right professionals at the right time for the rest
Throughout this site you will find a number of top tips and little adjustments that you can do yourself. You can do these either for yourself or for (and with the consent of) a loved one. The sooner you do these adjustments, the lower cost and less traumatic those changes will be. With our range of services, we can help you identify how Age-Friendly your home is. We can also help you come up with a good plan to make the little adjustments. And then, if you want a design review or need the bigger adaptations, we can help too.
The Occupational Therapist has a unique set of skills to help retain independence
You might come across an NHS OT during a stay in hospital or if you have injured yourself and they will provide you with some equipment to help you get back on your feet at home.
You might come across a Community OT, working for the Local Authority (or their delivery partners). They will assess for any aids or adaptations that you might need, including the larger projects like a walk-in shower.
Everyone is eligible for an assessment by the OT Service. But not everyone is eligible for funding from the council for the resultant adaptations – these are means-tested.
There are also private OTs that can help you to get the help and advice you need, if you don’t want to wait for the state-funded OT availability. Contact us if you would like us to put you in touch with a local private OT in your area.
In this article we will look at using colour and tone to good effect at home for an an age-friendly future.
Improving how well the main elements in a room can be distinguished against each other is another great, low-cost adjustment. Can you easily identify the walls, floors, furniture and switches in the room you are in right now? (Try looking around with your eyes almost closed or in soft focus. Can they still be identified easily enough?)
The busier the room is, the stronger the definition needs to between the elements. The two images below are very different, neither of them have good definition between the elements – can you see why?
Having a well contrasted design makes the room more easy to ‘understand’ and reduces the risk of collision or tripping over poorly identified pieces of furniture. But you don’t have to fill your space with bright colours to achieve this, the changes can be made though subtle, harmonious combinations when the elements have a good tonal contrast between each other. Something as simple as changing the rug, swapping items of furniture around or painting a wall will have a big impact.
Example of using colour and tone to good effect at home
The interactive image below shows how minor changes can make a bid different. Slide the central arrow bar sideways to see the difference between the two rooms.
They are identical in size, shape and light levels. The room on the left has low contrast between the elements because they all have similar tone and it is harder to identify objects and edges. (Look for the coffee table glass top and the rug edge with a soft focus or almost closed eye and you will see what we mean.) On the other hand, the room on the right has great contrast between most of the main elements. For example, the rug edge can be clearly identified against the floor, and the coffee table stands out well against the lighter rug.
Do you want to learn more and start the journey towards making your home Age-Friendly? You can choose from a range of options in our HomeCheck suite:
Should I stay put or go? Have you ever thought about relocating – either yourself or someone else?
Sometimes your home may not suit you perfectly anymore, and the obvious answer seems to be to move somewhere else. However, before you decide whether to stay put or go, make sure you have considered all options for making your existing home more Age-friendly. (Remember, have a browse through our Blogs for advice. Then check our range of services, to help you make the most of whatever property you choose to live in.)
One of our clients, Joyce went through her own ‘Stay Put or Go’ journey. Joyce was so delighted by our service that she wrote us a poem about her experience. Enjoy!
This is one of a series of ‘Stay Put or Go’ articles. Everyone is different and we hope this series helps you make the best decision. The next article in the series sets out some of the considerations.
Perhaps you are worried about a loved one and wonder whether they should stay living in their own home? Or perhaps you think a move to a residential home or nursing home might be better? If so, You can read some of our focus articles such as this one to help you help them.
When is the last time you changed your lighting at home?
And we don’t mean replacing a blown bulb – We mean upgrading those old compact fluorescent bulbs that never ‘die’. You, or your loved ones, probably have one lurking around the mirror in your bathroom, in the garage, on the landing or perhaps even in the kitchen. They are the bulbs that take a while to warm up, sometimes flicker and produce a dim, yellow-white light.
What is wrong with them?
Compact Fluorescent Bulbs are those curly tubes that fit a standard light bulb fitting or the long tubes on the ceiling. They were once hailed as the energy efficient alternative to traditional tungsten bulbs, and many of us still have them in our homes. And indeed they did / do use less energy. But they also degrade very quickly and produce a very poor quality and level of light after a relatively short time.
The impact of Poor Quality Lighting
The older we are, the more light (and the better quality light) we need to stay safe and stay well. For example, research shows that our 40 year-old selves need twice the amount of light (light level) compared to our 20 year-old selves; and our 60 year-old selves need twice as much again. But we rarely take this into account as we age.
In extremis, poor quality light and low levels of light can cause permanent eye damage. On a daily basis, unsuitable lighting causes eye-strain leading to headaches and tiredness. Poor lighting also makes it more difficult to see hazards, read the instructions on medication packs and operate controls.
But simply replacing the outdated compact fluorescent bulbs with any-old LED just won’t do. They need certain qualities to them to make for a better lighting solution.
Good quality lighting has 3 main features:
Good Light output. (We measure light levels in Lux)
A High Colour Rendition score. (This is how accurately we see the true the colour of something under the artificial light, when compared to the same object in daylight)
Low flicker (Even imperceptible flicker can cause eye fatigue)
And then on top of this you can choose what kind of colour ‘temperature’ the lighting has. Do you want Warm white lighting (a yellow-gold glow) that is reminiscent of dawn and dusk or a fireside? Or do you want Cool white (a blueish light) that more closely replicates daylight, or something in between?
Although rugs and mats are brilliant at giving a room personality, soaking up muddy pawprints or keeping your feet warm – they are also one of the biggest trip risks in a home.
And tripping means trouble if the impact of a fall results in injury.
What should I do, I love my rugs?
You don’t necessarily need to get rid of rugs, but move them out of the main routes, especially if they are thick or shaggy pile.
The best kind of rugs to have are short pile rugs with rubber backing, such as the range by Turtle Mats. But if you don’t have these, then add a non-slip underlay underneath the ones you do have, such as the Foxi Rug Tamer range – making sure this non-slip underlay goes to the edges, or use corner sticks.
As soon as your rug starts to curl at the edges then it is time to upcycle it!
Want the next Small Changes idea? Read here for Adjustment #2: Lighting
International Day of Disabled People, 3rd December 2020
Today is a time to celebrate the achievements of people, society and legislative achievements in creating a more inclusive world for all of us, especially people with a disability.
And it matters to me. And I think it matters for you.
You have probably heard that 1 in 5 of us are statistically likely to have a disability. In fact, we are all likely to experience disability in our later life, but this is not a doom and gloom story…..
This is a story about you and I, getting on with our respective lives and ageing just a teeny tiny bit each day.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel much differently to how I did 30 years ago, and I hope that I won’t feel any different in 30 years’ time. My spirit and zest will likely be the same – but I will have aged.
If I am very lucky, my body will age organically. That means I might not master my Sudoku as quickly, I might be a bit stiffer and I might find those top shelves or shoelaces harder to reach; And probably my energy levels will be less than when I was 20 years old, but I will still be living independently and choosing what I do each day.
My chances (as a fairly healthy very-late-forty-something) of experiencing that kind of ageing in my twighlight years? Less than 30%
I am much more likely to be living my last 18 years in what is called my Disability-Adjusted Life Years where I find some everyday activities difficult or exhausting. And that is true for you too. (Read this if you don’t believe me)
So, as we acquire health conditions and impairment as a result of ageing, what will keep us being the ‘us‘ we know and love? Well, we need to embrace both futures as a possible reality, and plan for all eventualities!
Click below to read more articles and find out what you can do to plan for your future, including:
Live a healthy lifestyle (I will spare you my vlog about learning Bhangra dance skills over YouTube)
Plan financially (Pensions, care costs, LPA’s – the lot)
(We take our statistics and research from high quality sources such as the Office for National Statistics, English Homes Survey and approved research from the Centre for Ageing Better – just ask us if you want to know more)