Home Accessibility Changes To Support Sight Impairments

Matthew | Mar 12 2024

Continuing to live independently as we get older is certainly possible, but in order to facilitate this it may well be necessary to make certain changes and adaptations to our homes as our needs evolve over time.

It’s natural for vision to deteriorate with age, with the most common eye conditions that are likely to develop including cataracts (where the lens starts to cloud over), glaucoma (where the anterior chamber starts to narrow and block the drainage system near the iris), macular degeneration (where the retina becomes less sensitive to light) and diabetic retinopathy (where sugar buildup damages the eyes).

If you are losing your sight or have an eye condition of some kind, it is possible that you’ll have to carry out home adaptations and improvements to make your property accessible enough to support potential sight impairments.

Indoors, it can be helpful to increase the amount of natural light that comes flooding into your living spaces. An easy alteration would be to switch out heavy drapes for voile curtains or some other kind of sheer fabric, although you may find you need to make more extensive alterations, such as installing new windows to improve light levels.

Reducing trip hazards is also a must if you’re struggling with your eyesight, so make sure that any loose carpet tiles or floor planks are repaired and that the artificial lighting in each room is sufficient to keep all four corners of the space well lit.

The bathroom and kitchen in particular can represent significant health risks, so focusing on these parts of the home first can make it a safer place in which to live. 

Using anti-slip mats and other kinds of safety flooring can ensure there are no slips, trips and falls. It can also be beneficial to decorate the space in a matte finish to minimise reflective surfaces, which can be dazzling and affect vision even further.

When installing features like grab rails, shower seating, bath lifts and so on, it can be beneficial to use contrasting colours to the rest of the bathroom so you can see them more easily.

As important as it is to prioritise the inside of your home, it’s also vital that you make the exterior of the property safe, as well. 

Again, fixing any and all potential trip hazards is a must, with all paths and fenced areas well maintained and looked after. As for plants and trees, keeping everything cut back and orderly will also help reduce the risks of an accident taking place. 

Outdoor lighting can also be used to excellent effect to ensure that any obstructions are seen before they cause problems, as well as using lights around the locks and keyholes on your front and back doors to help you get in and out of the house without much trouble.

Walk in baths - Elderly swollen feet or edema leg walk into bathroom
Mar 01

Home Adaptations To Help With Arthritis


Arthritis is a very common condition that causes joint pain and inflammation, making movement more difficult than usual, particularly in the hands, spine, knees and hips.

It can be a very difficult condition to live with and there is no cure for it, although there are treatments that can slow its progress. Lifestyle changes, medication and surgery can also help you manage your symptoms, but ultimately it will likely be something that you have to live with.

As such, making changes around the house and adapting your living spaces to reflect your change in circumstances can prove very beneficial, helping you to navigate your way through your home more easily and without putting yourself at risk.

The likes of fixed ramps and automatic doors or wider doorways can be helpful if you need to use a wheelchair, while baths and showers with inbuilt handles can help you manoeuvre yourself in and out.

However, you may find that you prefer to significantly overhaul the bathroom entirely and turn it into a wet room, or perhaps install a walk-in bath to make life even easier. Thinking about how your symptoms may change over time can help you decide what adaptations to bring in.

The bathroom is perhaps the best place to begin as this is one of the most hazardous rooms in the house. Installing a shower seat can help keep you safe as you bathe and you may find slip mats of particular benefit in the shower, bath and by the toilet.

Changing your bathroom routine can also help ease your symptoms. For example, washing your hair can be very tiring, so perhaps consider using dry shampoo occasionally to provide you with some relief.

Keeping a towel warm on the radiator for when you’re ready to get out of the bath can also help, as cold can exacerbate your symptoms and cause even more joint pain and stiffness.

In the living room, consider changing the layout of the space to make it easier for you to traverse and aim to keep the floor as free from clutter as you can to reduce slips, trips and falls. You may also find that investing in sturdier furniture helps you throughout the day, as you can use the backs and arms of chairs and sofas for additional support.

As for the kitchen, lowering the cupboards means you won’t have to stretch so far to reach what you need and you could invest in ergonomic handles for your taps to make them easier to turn on and off.

Ultimately, the aim is to reduce as much strain on your joints as possible and there’s a lot that can be achieved in this regard, both in terms of home adaptations but also lifestyle changes and altering your routines to accommodate your changing mobility.

Half height shower doors - Disabled person bathroom
Jan 31

French Architects Designing For Dementia


A new experimental village on the outskirts of the French town of Dax in the south-west of France has been hitting the headlines of late, garnering praise for its comprehensive design that aims to improve the wellbeing of those suffering with Alzheimer’s.

The Village Landais Alzheimer has been modelled on the Hogeweyk dementia village in the Netherlands, the Guardian reports, which is a healthcare facility that has both the look and layout of a village.

Similarly, this latest project in Dax has been designed to resemble a traditional community, with people able to enjoy familiar architecture based on common features that can be found throughout the region.

For example, the facility includes a bastide, which is an arcaded square that houses a library and a restaurant. There are four clusters of homes to be found here, with shallow pitched roofs with clay tiles, which have been built around a green space that has trees and a pond in the middle.

In all, 108 residents call this village home, with 12 daycare patients and over 120 staff and 80 volunteers. Particular attention is paid to the needs of those with early onset dementia.

Mathilde Charon-Burnel, manager of social care projects for the region’s local authority, explained that features like circular walking routes and other such features are intended to deliver an “impression of liberty”, working to reduce the impacts of the disease.

For example, paving stones are in beige throughout to prevent strong contrasts from disturbing people, while mirrors can be concealed by shutters if necessary to avoid causing potential upset. Light and dark tones are also used to great effect, pointing people to where they should go and deflecting them away from restricted areas.

Projects such as this one are sure to become increasingly important as time goes on, with life expectancy increasing and more and more of us living to 100. 

Housing design has an incredibly important role to play in supporting people to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible, as well as supporting them to lead fulfilling lives even when facing diseases like dementia.

Making both homes and neighbourhoods more age-friendly will help support the evolving needs of an ageing population. 

In a recent white paper, the Social Care Institute For Excellence emphasised the importance of using population data and projections for accessible housing and planning, alongside integrated healthcare and more robust community engagement.

To help achieve age-friendly communities, home designs need to meet the needs of the entire population as it ages, with national mandatory requirements set in place for 90 per cent of new homes to be made accessible and adaptable, while ten per cent be designed to be wheelchair accessible.

Furthermore, local neighbourhood plans should feature design principles to create more age-friendly environments, while the government should invest in training to support the co-design of age-friendly environments so that the right homes can be delivered in the right places.

Half height shower doors - Bathroom with grab bars for people with disabilities
Jan 15

Levelling Up Committee Launches Accessible Housing Survey


A new online survey has been launched by the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee (LUHCC), with the aim being to gather the views and experiences of disabled people when finding or adapting suitable homes to meet their needs.

The inquiry will look into the roles that governments, local authorities and developers have to play in making sure that suitable housing is delivered for disabled people, as well as what government support can be provided for disabled tenants in England’s private rented sector.

The LUHCC will also look at the National Planning Policy Framework to assess whether it ensures that housebuilding complies with the Equality Act 2010, as well as how far the government is able to ensure provision is provided to support residents who don’t live in new build homes and whether the disabled facilities grant is sufficient to deliver housing adaptations.

This new online survey includes questions that relate to finding or adapting suitable housing, the experiences that people have had when applying for the disabled facilities grant and what further action could be taken to support the accessibility of suitable housing.

Chair of the LUHCC Clive Betts commented on the news, saying: “We have received a wealth of written evidence submissions for our inquiry but I hope this survey will help us hear directly from disabled people on their views and experiences of finding or adapting suitable housing.

“In this inquiry we want to examine what the government can do to ensure disabled residents have access to accessible and adaptable housing in England and how far the planning system is helping to deliver suitable homes.”

The closing date for survey responses is February 15th, so there’s still plenty of time to make your views known. It is entirely anonymous and survey respondents are discouraged from sharing any details that might identify them when answering the questions.

shower seats - shower seats
Dec 27

‘First-Ever’ Fully Accessible Holiday Home Built In Essex


It can be very challenging for disabled people to navigate their way through public life, as much of it isn’t set up to account for specific mobility needs. Going anywhere can be very difficult, with a lot of research involved as to what facilities are provided and where, making options somewhat limited.

However, necessity is the mother of invention and it seems that it was exactly these issues that inspired builder Gary Foweraker from Clacton to build what he believes to be the first-ever fully accessible holiday home in Essex.

According to the Essex County Standard, Mr Foweraker tried to take his mother Marie, who uses a wheelchair, on holiday in the county last year but found it impossible to find a property that was sufficiently accessible to accommodate her needs.

The new holiday let features two downstairs bedrooms with full accessibility, so multiple wheelchair users can visit at the same time. One room includes a profiling bed and ceiling hoist, with a large ensuite wetroom, a mobile shower trolly, a shower chair and a high low sink.

Mr Foweraker said: “There are so many people who are disabled, you just don’t realise it, and there just aren’t enough places suitable or accessible enough for them. I have enjoyed creating this holiday home so much. It’s really been amazing. I’m hoping I can help the local community and help those who wouldn’t normally be able to access Clacton.”

Accessibility isn’t just a concern when you’re out of the house, however, and it’s important to make the necessary adaptations to your own home to take into account any changes in your physical capabilities.

There’s a lot that can be done to make your homes safer and easier to use as time goes on, whether that’s lowering the kitchen worktops to make cooking easier, installing ergonomic handles on the doors or installing shower seats in the bathroom. 

It’s likely that these changes will be made in stages and there’s no need to worry that the aesthetics of your home will be compromised, as there are many stylish options available these days.

shower bench - bathroom
Dec 21

Declutter To Stay Safe At Home


As we get older, it’s important to acknowledge that our needs are likely to change as time goes on and if we are to continue living independently, we may well have to make a few home adaptations here and there in order to facilitate this.

Mobility becomes a big concern the older we get, with joints and muscles getting weaker, which makes it far more likely that we’ll have an accident of some kind, with slips, trips and falls one of the leading causes of injury in older people.

However, there’s a lot you can do to mitigate the risks and one of the first steps you can take is to declutter the house from top to bottom. 

Having fewer belongings getting in your way will instantly make it easier and safer for you to navigate your way through your home – and the added benefit is that cleaning will be easier as well!

If you rely on mobility aids like stairlifts or similar, it’s essential that you’re able to move around with ease and if there are lots of items on the floor, this will naturally be quite dangerous, so it’s certainly worth taking the time to see if there are any possessions you can get rid of.

When you start decluttering, make sure that you don’t overwhelm your spaces with stuff. You still need to be able to move around safely as you work, so perhaps do a little and often at first, making sure that you don’t box yourself into any corners or that you don’t put boxes behind doors, which can be hazardous if you need to leave the house in a rush.

Tackle each room one at a time so you don’t overface yourself – and perhaps consider asking a friend or relative to lend a helping hand. You may find that the more you do, the more you want to do. Before you know it, your home will be a significantly safer place in which to live.

Indiana 1 bath
Nov 15

What Is Universal Home Design?


Throughout our lifetime, our needs will inevitably change from the time we were babies with no independence at all through to adulthood where we are more capable of taking care of ourselves. As time goes on and we get older, our needs will likely change once again, with the chances of us experiencing mobility issues increasing as we age.

Of course, it’s not just age that can have an impact on how well we’re able to live in our own homes, with injury and illness also potentially placing restrictions on us in this regard as well.

This is where universal home design can really come into its own, ensuring that the houses we live in are built with accessibility in mind from the outset, rather than having to make adjustments over time in line with our changing needs.

Building properties that include features to enable easy adaptation makes sense, given that change is absolutely inevitable – and doing so can ensure that people are able to continue living in their homes for as long as possible, retaining their independence as they age.

But it’s not just what’s inside the home that will facilitate this. The location of the property is also key and ensuring that properties are either close to local amenities like healthcare sites, shops, leisure and recreation, and so on is also essential to help people age in place.

And, of course, material choice should also be taken into account at the design stage to help ensure that our homes keep us healthy and don’t have an adverse effect. Building good-quality properties are more energy efficient, for example, and have better ventilation, which means they’re less likely to be affected by damp, mildew and mould.

Currently, the majority of homes are built to suit the needs of active adults, but this can prove dangerous after a certain point – but this is where the concept of universal design can provide a solution, a term first coined by architect Ronald L Mace.

The idea here is that everything from the building and the environment to technology and products should be attractive and practical for the widest range of people possible, no matter what their individual abilities are, or their age, gender or physicality.

For older people, it’s possible to use the principles of this design concept to review and update their current home or build something entirely bespoke that serves both their present and future needs, all at the same time.

For example, home features could include the likes of wider doorways, height-adjustable counters, grab bars in bathrooms, shower seating, lever handles on doors and taps, walk-in showers, easy access storage areas, good lighting systems and so on.

Even some of the smallest changes can make a big difference to our ability to stay at home as we get older, ensuring ease of use and improving our level of comfort, independence and quality of life, while also helping to reduce the risk of accidents at home.

Asian Elderly Old Woman Patient Use Toilet Support Rail In Bathr
Oct 25

Installing Grab Rails In The Bathroom


Making your home more accessible is an excellent idea as you get older so that you can continue to age in place and stay in familiar, comfortable surroundings, living independently for as long as possible.

There are lots of different adaptations you can make that will help accommodate you as your needs change and one of the best places to focus on is the bathroom, as this room represents a very real health and safety risk, since it features potentially slippery surfaces and various water sources.

While you can make significant investments in products like walk-in baths and easy access showers, there are smaller adaptations that can be carried out first if you’re not quite ready for such big changes.

Grab rails, for example, can make your bathroom safer quickly and affordably, so this would perhaps be a good place to start if you are worried that your physical requirements are starting to evolve.

There are different types of grab rail you can install depending on your mobility needs. Horizontal rails, for example, can be used next to both baths and showers, fitted at an angle to help you push yourself up from sitting, or giving you the support you need to lower yourself down. These rails can also be positioned near seats, as well as the toilet.

Vertical rails, meanwhile, can help you pull yourself into a standing position, as well as giving you additional support while in the shower. And for those of you with weak or painful wrists and arms, you may want to consider an inclined rail. These allow you to spread your forearm out across the length of the rail, helping to give you more support.

In terms of positioning, think about how you use the bath or shower. If you have a shower head over the bathtub, using a vertical rail on the wall near the tap end can be useful. If you have a separate shower cubicle, you can improve safety standards by installing a vertical rail at the entrance so you can get in and out easily.

And if you’ve had to have a shower seat installed, you may find it useful to add a horizontal grab rail alongside the seat to help you get up and down, as well as to prevent you from sliding off.

Of course, this is only a very brief guide to home accessibility products and it’s important to make decisions based on your own personal needs, as well as physical factors like height and weight in order to work out where best to position your rails.

If you need any further help or advice, get in touch with the Practical Bathing team today to find out more about making your home more accessible.

Workers Are Laying The Floor With Large Tiles. A Worker Puts A L
Oct 10

7 Safety Tips To Avoid Slips & Trips


With the cold weather starting to put in an appearance once again, it’s vital that you do all you can to keep yourself safe in treacherous conditions. This time of year, while beautiful, can pose a serious health risk, especially for people above a certain age who may be more susceptible to slips, trips and falls.

Interestingly, research shows that cold indoor environments can have an impact on physical performance and strength, particularly in older people who may be more frail. Reduced physical performance is an acknowledged risk factor for falls, so keeping the house warm at this time of year could prove beneficial in preventing accidents at home.

One of the best ways to prevent falls is to make sure that you always wear secure shoes that fit you well and aren’t loose. If you don’t want to wear shoes in the house, make sure that your slippers fit you properly and aren’t old or fraying. 

The same goes for socks if you’d prefer to wear those… just make sure that they’re the right size and not too big, with rubber grips on the soles and no excess material flapping around. You want to make sure that your feet are kept nice and warm during cold snaps, while not putting yourself at risk of falling.

Looking out for trip hazards can also make a big difference to ensuring safety at home, not just in the winter but at all times of the year. Places like the living room, where there are likely to be rugs, can be hazardous, so make sure that any carpets and rugs are well fitted to the floor, not rumpled or coming away at the edges.

Similarly, if you have a bath mat in the bathroom, make sure that it’s hung up or draped over the side of the bath so you don’t accidentally slip on it. 

You may also find that you want to keep the shower running for longer during the winter months, which can make these spaces incredibly steamy, hindering visibility, so always use the extractor fan to clear the steam quickly.

Staying active is another way you can help protect your health during the winter. It can be tempting to bunker down under a cosy blanket until the spring, but getting out and about will make you stronger and help maintain muscle strength, balance and flexibility, so you’re less likely to fall. 

Even performing small exercises at home can make a big difference in this regard, such as doing a series of toe raises while you’re doing the washing-up, or doing sit to stand exercises during ad breaks while watching TV.

By making a few simple changes at home, you may significantly reduce the risks of slips, trips and falls at this time of year. If you’d like any further help or advice relating to personal safety and how you can make home adaptations to further protect your wellbeing, get in touch with the Practical Bathing team today.

senior man Prevent Falls At Home - bidet seats
Sep 28

Can AI Help Prevent Falls At Home?


As we get older, our homes can start to represent a health and safety risk if we’re not careful – which is why it can be beneficial to consider making various home adaptations over time so that any changes in needs can be accommodated. 

This then allows us to stay in our homes for as long as possible, enjoying our independence and retaining a level of control over our lives, even as our circumstances evolve.

One of the biggest fears that older people have is slips, trips and falls, with recent research from Age UK showing that 36 per cent of those over the age of 65 consider falling over their top concern.

And this is hardly a surprise, given the fact that falling contributes significantly to hip fractures, many of which are preventable. These injuries can have serious consequences for older people and, in fact, falls are the most common cause of injury-related deaths in those over 75 years old.

Of course, this is a huge cause for concern but the good news is that we live in the 21st century and the digital age, which means there’s a huge amount of different technology at our disposal that can be used to help keep us safe at home as we age.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and its many different benefits is the serious talk of the town right now and its various applications are increasingly being lauded in a raft of different arenas.

Where personal safety at home is concerned, there’s a growing body of research that suggests AI could be of particular use, so if you are getting older and want to protect yourself as much as you can, it could certainly be worth looking into.

A recent pilot of AI monitors in residential care homes saw the number of nighttime falls drop by over half, with a 20 per cent fall in hospital admissions as a result, as well. Furthermore, a 75 per cent reduction in the number of unnecessary in-person checks at night by staff members was also seen, freeing up their time to devote to care elsewhere.

And back in August, social care provider and health tech firm Cera is now making use of AI in its SmartCare app, which it says now enables it to predict whether people will fall at home a week before accidents actually happen with 83 per cent accuracy.

It’s thought that if this technology was used by all people over the age of 65 receiving social care in England, the new AI model could predict approximately 10,000 fall-related hospitalisations annually, which would have a significant impact on the NHS.

At home, you can help protect yourself from slips, trips and falls by using sensors in at-risk places like the bathroom. These work by detecting changes in movement patterns, which can predict future falls or send out alerts if you do take a tumble. 

Alternatively, you could consider wearing a device on your wrist that is able to detect movements like walking, running and standing, with data collected and analysed to detect changes related to your daily activities so that any falls can be detected.

AI aside, there are lots of other home adaptations you can make that will allow you to age in place. If you’d like to find out how to make your bathroom at home safer, get in touch with the Practical Bathing team today to see how we can help.