Aging obviously isn’t easy. What with health problems that seem to become more chronic with time. They creep up on your much-loved elders without you, or they, even realizing it. Those little unnoticeable signs – like needing reading glasses, which after a while may graduate to the first signs of glaucoma; minor issues with hearing; those repeated bouts of acid reflux; aching joints; cramps at night; and so on… The increasing number of incidents will slowly make you more aware that your senior relative will eventually need people to take care of them, or at least require medical facilities at hand. Regardless of what they need, how will you find it? Can someone help you to get more information to base your decisions on? Whom can you approach?

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Caring for elders

Whether you are trying to plan for your retirement years, or whether you are doing this for a parent, there are certain hard choices to be made. This is something you’ll have to face if your parent falls down and gets hurt, undergoes surgery or suffers a debilitating illness such as dementia, Parkinson’s or a stroke. And it’s even worse if it happens to you, since you may not be in a position to take a decision.

Even if there are people to help you out ,such as family and friends, there’s only so much you can expect from them since they too have their own lives to lead. So, you or your parents, are likely to need help – medical or otherwise. You need to start doing your research on the various healthcare options available to you for your retirement years.

Home healthcare

A wide range of healthcare services can be made available at your place of residence, including nursing and medical aid, in the event of an unexpected injury, surgery or illness. If your parents insist on staying at home during an illness, you just may have to opt for home healthcare. Popularly referred to as Home Care, it is normally less expensive and more convenient than any care you can get in a hospital or nursing home. 

Long term care: Elders who suffer from progressive or prolonged conditions such as MS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, stroke and other such debilitating illnesses, benefit the most from long term care. Ranging from the simple to the most complex, this can include help with feeding, bathing, moving around, skilled medical care 24/7, a doctor on call, and so much more.

Short term care: This is suitable when an elderly person is recovering from surgery, injury or an illness. You can consider home healthcare, a nursing home or consulting medical professionals as temporary solutions. If help is needed with daily activities, an attendant caregiver can make home visits.

The importance of designing for elders

Everyone grows old. It’s inevitable. And with age come constraints and restrictions that inhibit the carrying out of daily tasks, freedom of movement and, thus, negatively impacts the quality of life.  These limitations should be taken into account, when designing and building living spaces which the elderly will inhabit. Older people want homes that give them independence, choices and the ability to maintain their friendships and family contacts. Yet, most homes in India are not meeting these basic needs.

While designing living spaces for older people, it becomes imperative that certain basic essentials need to be factored in. What can we do to make life more comfortable during the golden years, in spaces that are already built without any of the aids that elders so desperately need to make the rest of their lives worth living?

Basic prerequisites for designing for the elderly

To adapt or modify an apartment/house/work area to an older person’s needs, certain basic factors need to be taken care of. These include:

  • Ramps to facilitate moving wheel-chairs into lifts
  • Spacious lifts to accommodate one person in a wheel-chair and at least one attendant
  • Arranging furniture so as to allow people, in wheel-chairs and with walkers, to move around unimpeded
  • Wide doors, at entrances and between rooms, for wheelchairs to pass through easily
  • Grab rails, in bathrooms and along steps and ramps
  • Anti-skid flooring to avoid slippages
  • Level spaces for the entire living area, to ensure ease of movement
  • Ramps, rather than steps, at the entrance to buildings
  • Bath seats and raised toilet seats to minimize bending and abrupt movement
  • Safety devices, such as gas detectors and water-level alerts
  • Extra lighting to help failing eye sight

It’s not just all about buildings, either. Older people, just like the rest of us, have strong views about where they want to live. It is not just the homes themselves that are important to maintaining their independence: a local environment, with accessible shops and services, is vital too.

In India, as elsewhere, older people come from diverse social, economic, ethnic and religious backgrounds… with different ideas about what makes a home. But all of them want safety, care, comfort and a feeling of fitting in, so that they really do feel at home – where the fabric of life is familiar and where respect for their special needs is a given.

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