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Planning the Best Aging-in-Place Bedroom: A Few Tips From the Experts

| Owen Barclay |

We spend a significant amount of time there; much of our lives are organized around it, yet it is the room most frequently overlooked when making aging-in-place plans. Yes, we’re talking about the bedroom, and in this post, we reveal some key ideas to modify your bedroom and transform it into a safe aging-in-place setting.

Starting with the centerpiece. It’s called a “bedroom” for a reason! The bed is the centerpiece of the bedroom; it is why the room exists. And the beds we buy often reflect its importance; large pieces of furniture set on ornate frames, stacked on a foundation of box springs and inner mattresses raised high off the floor. And we make sure to center the bed on a wall with night tables on either side.This all works great when you’re young and bouncy, but not so easy to maneuver around when a little creakiness sets in.

Lots of fixes to improve the situation. We’ll start with the height of the bed. Too high and it’s tough to get into. However, it’s also true that more elevated beds are easier to get out of. So, is there a happy medium? The answer is yes: It turns out that a distance of approximately 22 inches from floor to top of mattress works best for most people. And fortunately, it’s not that hard to make an appropriate adjustment up or down.

The “Goldilocks” approach. If your bed is too low, get some risers, small rubber or wood blocks, that allow you to raise the bed 3 to 7 inches. These can be purchased at a hardware store or local variety store. If you want to spend a little more money and are ready to spring(no pun intended) for a new mattress, you can purchase a new “pillow top” mattress which adds several inches of height and can solve the problem.

For a bed that’s too high, there’s a host of solutions. If your bed is on rollers or wheels, take them off, and you’ll lose a few inches. Swapping out a larger box spring mattress for a shallow model can also slash a few inches…or alternatively switch to a frame that dispenses with a box spring. Handy with carpenter tools, or know someone who is; cut off a few inches from the legs of your frame.

Need a little extra help getting “on and off.” Devices called “transfer-handle bed rails” are easily installed at the top of the bed on either or both sides. These are a big help with sitting and standing. Installing a floor to ceiling pole next to the bed can also assist with standing and pivoting yourself out of bed.

Want a less expensive solution: place a wide, non-slip stool or step next to the bed. Something like an aerobic step does the trick very nicely.

Moving over to the closet. Few of us have well-organized bedroom closets, but as we age, a little bit of closet discipline can make life a lot easier. You can pay for a complete closet makeover, but merely hanging closet rods at different heights is a cost-effective solution for most reaching issues. Using raised shoe racks and floor shelving solves lots of bending issues. And making space for an inexpensive plastic drawer organizer can provide convenient storage for smaller items, belts, scarves, etc. One more thing: don’t forget to put lighting inside the closet with a switch installed outside the closet (no tripping over shoes on the floor while fumbling around to activate the bulb.)

A few thoughts on the layout. The guiding principles are clear paths and open spaces. Moving a centered bed a little to one side may help meet the needs of an individual who requires additional space for a walker or other mobility device. It can also shorten the distance somewhat to a hallway door or bathroom. Sometimes moving out a dresser that’s next to the bed can create more space. A useful rule of thumb: you want 36 inches of space to accommodate a walker; a good five feet next to the bed for wheelchair users.

We hope we’ve given you some ideas. We are certified aging-in-place specialists, so working through these issues is really in our “wheelhouse”…we’re here to help and welcome your comments, thoughts, and questions. Give us a call at 604-259-9774 or email us at [email protected].