As we age, we make adaptations, both consciously and unconsciously, for new and developing limitations; those include mobility, vision, hearing or memory. Examples of unconscious adaptations: Reading material held a little further away, standing more closely together during conversations, or cupping your ear to hear better. Conscious adaptations include getting a hearing aid or reading glasses (or perhaps a pair for each room of the house).

Technology helps

There’s a myriad of adaptive products both high and low-tech that cater to older-age limitations. Some have been around for decades; new ones are being developed and introduced every day.

High-tech medication dispensers alert family members and caregivers when medications have been missed. Fall monitors and motion sensors are examples of assistive technology devices. Leading-edge software programs help people preserve and boost their memories; some even trigger or nurture memories for those with serious memory loss and cognitive impairment.

Lower-tech adaptive products include grab bars and raised toilet seats. Large print publications and task lighting are simple solutions that make a world of difference.

Professional assistance

Trained professionals can help seniors figure out which products, tools, and adaptations will be most helpful in overcoming unique challenges. Ask your doctor or a social worker for referrals to service providers. Some services and products may be covered by insurance plans; especially, if recommended by a doctor.

If a senior develops mobility issues, has cognitive difficulties, or is recovering from surgery or an injury,  their doctor  will  recommend working with an occupational therapist. Most occupational therapists (OT) hold master’s degrees and are trained to create customized programs for people to modify activities of daily life; even hobbies and exercise regimens.

With a doctor’s input, an OT evaluates a patient and then creates a plan; meeting with the patient recurrently in clinics or at the patient’s home. They assist with implementing the program and can make product suggestions and recommend adaptations to the home so it functions better and more safely.

For an overall design plan that will make their home function better, seniors can hire “aging in place” interior designers. These “niche” designers are well-versed in ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Standards for Accessible Design, as well as the “principles of universal design.”

The Standards for Accessible Design deal with issues such as pathways, doorways and accessibility for those with physical limitations and for individuals who may use wheelchairs, walkers, and other mobility aids.

Universal design is the practice of designing a space that is functional and a space that can be used by people of all ages and abilities. It is a guideline that fosters design that does not diminish use by able-bodied people of any age and, at the same time, allows use by those with physical limitations.

An interior designer can also make recommendations for finishes, lighting, flooring and furniture that will make a home safer and more functional for long-term senior living. An interior designer, that is trained in this field, will also make adaptive or assistive tools and products merge with your overall design aesthetic because function and safety absolutely can and should coexist with comfort and beauty.

Age in style

While it may not seem glamorous to focus on one’s new or changing physical or cognitive limitations, there has been no better time in history to age gracefully; and dare I say…In Style.

Through this new monthly column, “Aging in Style”, we’ll explore the many facets of beautiful senior living including fashion, activities, home design and community. We’ll tackle the challenging transitions and pesky limitations of aging. I look forward to sharing with you all sorts of fun and practical ways to refine or re-define your unique life’s style.

Karen Pfeiffer Bush is a senior living specialist and owner of two Seattle-based companies, Housewarming (www.housewarmingseattle.com) and Studio 65 (www.studio65design.com). Contact Karen at (206) 719-1662 or email her at karen@housewarmingseattle.com