Making Life a Little Easier

These practical suggestions will help anyone living alone. They are meant to help older adults take care of themselves, prevent accidents and make life easier and more pleasant. Written by Susan Smith who is an author and editor.

by Susan Smith

Senior citizens face your own challenges every day...and we're not just talking about the music blaring from the cars next to you!  So, why not make life easier where you can? Here are some ideas from the John Hopkins Geriatrics Center in Baltimore, Maryland.

Steam heat
Extreme heat can really hurt you. If you can, stay indoors in air conditioning, don't over exert yourself, and be sure to drink plenty of liquids when the weather is hot.

Cold hands, warm heart
Cold hands might be a sign of a warm heart, but they also might signal an under active thyroid (hypothyroidism). The thyroid gland regulates body temperature, among other things.  When it doesn't do its job well, you can become tired and less tolerant of cold. The signs of hypothyroidism can be vague, so be sure to mention even mild changes to your doctor.

Get a handle on it
If you have arthritis or other conditions that limit motion, you may want to attach your toothbrush hand to your hand with a wide elastic band. Or, enlarge the handle by strapping it to a sponge, Styrofoam® ball or similar object. If you have limited shoulder movement, you may want to lengthen the handle of the brush by attaching a long piece of wood or plastic. Making the change to an electric toothbrush might be helpful, too.

Sole mates
To increase the circulation of blood in your feet, wear comfortable shoes that fit well. Shoes that fit well will be made of soft, flexible material and will match the shape of your foot. Leather shoes can reduce skin irritations. Look for soles that are not slippery and that do give you solid footing. Thick soles lessen pressure on hard surfaces. Generally, low-heeled shoes are more comfortable, safer and less damaging than high-heeled shoes. Because foot width may increase with age, be sure to have your feet measured before buying shoes.

In the repair shop
Regular exercise helps your bones to rebuild and repair themselves, especially your joint bones and the bones of the spinal column. Without exercise, these bones are more likely to become thin and porous-a condition known as osteoporosis. In addition, strong muscles will improve your posture and balance, increase your mobility, and reduce the likelihood of falls and other accidents.

On the home front
You can prevent accidents by making some modifications to your home. For example, if you have trouble getting in and out of the shower, install grab bars, shower seats, or transfer benches. You can stay steady in the shower by using non-skid strips or decals in the tub or shower.

Do you find it hard to turn faucet handles and doorknobs?  If so, replace them with lever handles. 

Finally, if your home has stairs, be sure to install handrails on both sides of the stairway, and add more lighting if you cannot clearly see your step.

Some research indicates that you can prevent one-third to one-half of accidents in the home by making modifications like these.

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