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Keep mobile and stay independent

The changes that occur with ageing can lead to problems with mobility such as unsteadiness while walking, difficulty getting in and out of a chair, or increased risk of falls. These are reportedly the top mobility problems experienced by older people and a major cause of injury and death. 

Key points:

  • Modifying your home to suit your mobility needs can keep you at home for longer

  • Assistive technology can be a part of improving your mobility at home

  • Technology is developing more and more products to improve the living quality of older people in their homes

Older woman with a mobility aid.
Keeping mobile is a major contributor to maintaining independence while living safely and happily in your own home. [Source: Shutterstock]

Muscle weakness, joint problems, pain, disease and neurological difficulties can also contribute to mobility problems. 

Keeping mobile is a major contributor to maintaining independence and fulfilling daily tasks while living safely and happily in your own home. 

Although light physical activity can help improve your mobility and ensure you remain independent, some people also find comfort and assistance in mobility equipment or aids which aim to help them live more satisfying and productive lives. 

Improve access and safety at home

Creating a safe living space is critical to keep your independence and prevent injuries. Whether it’s slippery floors or tripping over electrical cords, some of the most common causes of injury in people over 65 are in and around the home. 

You can improve the safety of your home by making some basic changes.

Removing all clutter around the house can reduce the risk of tripping over, especially in the case of hallways and staircases. Make sure to clean around your entrances and exits to your home. 

Installing grab bars or handrails in areas of the home, like on stairs or in and around the shower, bathtub or toilet, can reduce the likelihood of you slipping over in the bathroom or elsewhere around the house.

If you have loose carpet, slippery rugs, or floorboards or tiles that stick up out of the ground, you should either remove the tripping hazard or get a professional in to repair any loose floorboards or tiles.

Using non-slip mats around the home, mostly around wet areas like the shower or bathroom, is an effective way of preventing falls.

There are also non-slip strips available for staircases to prevent falling hazards. The risk of a fall down a staircase can be further reduced by installing a stair lift.

Poor lighting in hallways and staircases can lead to unexpected falls or injury. Installing brighter light bulbs can brighten your home so you can see those hazards before you get to them. Additionally, making your bedside lamps or other lights easily accessible can make a world of difference. Even motion sensor lights can take a lot of guesswork out of finding a light switch during the night.

Mobility aids can assist you

There are several different types of mobility aids available which can help you maintain independence and safety, assist in walking and moving about, help you with personal care, make it easier for you to remain socially active, and maintain your quality of life. 

New products and technology are continually introduced to the market, and the creation of mobility aids to make the lives of older Australians easier is a developing industry.

Mobility aids help prevent falls at home or around the community. This can include walking sticks or frames, wheelie walkers, manual and motorised wheelchairs and scooters. 

Personal care aids can be utilised in your home to make life easier. For example, shower stools or chairs, shower hoses, bath seats and boards, over-toilet frames, commodes, urinals, continence pads and supplies, aids to assist with dressing, and aids to manage medications. 

Home safety aids assist you in your daily living around the home, this may include handrails, ramps, tap turners, non-slip mats, easy-grip utensils and easy-pour kettles.

Independent Living Centres

Independent Living Centres (ILCs) are Government-funded information resource centres, located in every State and Territory, that display a range of products and equipment to assist with daily living activities. 

There are seven ILC's around Australia that can provide advice and information by telephone, email or in person.

ILC's aims to be an unbiased voice for finding information and choosing Assistive Technology.

These ILC's are staffed by occupational therapists, a Registered Nurse (RN) and an allied health assistant. 

An ILC has a permanent exhibition of products and technology available to be tested with new stock filtering through the centre for people to examine. 

Testing a product or equipment beforehand can make it easier to decide what suits your needs before you purchase. 

ILC's are non for profit organisations and most of the equipment on display is loaned to them by the suppliers. There are private businesses and organisations that provide similar services.

Call 1300 885 886 or visit Independent Living Centres Australia to find an ILC near you.  

Technology

There are a number of gadgets, devices and technologies that can help older Australians keep their independence and make life much simpler around the home. 

These might include safety devices or personal alert systems that can detect falls, call for help in an emergency or have a GPS tracker. 

Personal alarms are becoming common among some older Australians as it can make them feel safer around their own home in case they have an accident.

These devices are especially handy for people who live alone or go long periods without social interaction. 

Smartwatches can also offer similar safety functions, having the potential to help in your daily life in a variety of different ways, from instant calls and messaging, to an abundance of applications that can help with things such as medication reminders, cognitive stimulation through brain games, and even GPS tracking. 

Other gadgets that have hit the market that may be beneficial are assistive technologies, voice-activated functions to control devices around the home, such as your TV, radio, lights and air conditioner, as well as being able to monitor daily routines. 

Recently, the Government has been making a push towards "smart homes", where your home is integrated with assistive technology. Functions can include features such as fall sensors that will register if you've had a fall inside your home or monitor your routines and cal call for assistance if something happens..

In 2016, the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) were filling sick older Australian's homes with sensors and monitors so they didn't have to wear uncomfortable devices around the home.

Some companies have even made mirrors to track the progression of dementia, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's!

There is a lot of new technology being made to fix a range of problems older Australians face. Search for different products and services providers on the AgedCareGuide.com.au

How have you modified your home to make it safer for yourself? Tell us below in the comments.

Related content:

How to maintain and improve mobility and reduce falls 
Respite Care 
Assessing your needs and eligibility

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