People of any age can have trouble getting around the house – a teenager
recovering from a sports injury, a baby boomer in rehab from a heart attack or
surgery, an elderly person with arthritis or balance problems. Whether your
limited mobility is temporary or permanent, there are many things you can do to
make your home safer and your life easier.
Modifying your home can be as simple as rearranging some furniture or
putting in a few handrails in strategic locations. This room-by-room guide
focuses on simple solutions to creating a safe haven. But it also includes more
substantial measures that can be worthwhile if you have long-term mobility
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Building entrances can be safety hazards, especially in bad weather. And
when it’s difficult to get around, even a step or two can seem like a mountain.
Make sure the path from the street to your front door is well lit and clear of
If you have stairs, make sure there’s a sturdy handrail -- on both
sides, if that helps. “Adding a second banister on the other side can make a
huge difference, especially if one side of the body is more impaired than the
other,” says Carla A. Chase, EdD, assistant professor of occupational therapy
at the Western Michigan University College of Health and Human Services in
Even if there’s just one step that is difficult to negotiate at the front
door, consider installing a grab bar. You can also rent a ramp for walkers and
wheelchairs if you need a temporary solution.
Home Safety: Be Creative in the Kitchen
You can be kitchen savvy with simple solutions that minimize stretching,
bending, lifting, and carrying:
Don’t leave things hanging. Put pans on a countertop rack -- or
simply leave them out on the stove -- instead of hanging them or putting them
in a drawer. Store plates, bowls, cups, and other heavy-use items in a single,
easily accessible drawer or shelf, not spread around the room. Try to reserve
high shelves for things you don’t need often.
Invest in a reacher. These clever, inexpensive tools have multiple
uses around the house. You can retrieve items from the floor without bending
over and from high shelves without using a footstool, which can be a safety
hazard. In the kitchen, you can use a reacher to wipe up spills while seated or
Stay seated. Put sturdy chairs with arms in strategic kitchen
locations so you can sit when you cut vegetables or do other kitchen tasks. “If
you can do everything from a seated position, that’s ideal,” says Tracy L. Van
Oss, DHSc, assistant clinical professor of occupational therapy at Quinnipiac
University School of Health Science in Hamden, Conn.
Let shelving do the heavy lifting. Slide-out shelving or a Lazy
Susan -- a round, revolving tray -- in corner cabinets and refrigerators can
make things easier to reach. A wheeled cart such as a tea cart is a little more
of a financial investment but can provide extra storage and help move heavy
items safely and easily. For example, use it to move a pot from the
refrigerator to the cooking range.
Keep the floor dry. Kitchen floors are prone to spills. Have paper
towels and a reacher handy for cleanup.