NJIT expert recommends 16 easy, affordable ways to make homes safer for people with disabilities

Environmental psychologist Richard Olsen, PhD, a research professor at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), has developed 16 easy and affordable ways people can make their homes safer and more comfortable. The information may help baby boomers planning retirement homes. Olsen regularly studies ways to improve living environments for the aging and people with disabilities and Alzheimer's disease.

"Our studies consistently illustrate that with several simple, relatively inexpensive modifications such as reorganizing the kitchen cabinets or installing anti-skid strips on the stair tread, people can create safer and more comfortable living environments," said Olsen who also directs the health and aging division at NJIT's Center for Architecture and Building Science Research.

These ideas emerged from two current projects. One, funded by the Health Care Foundation of New Jersey, consisted of 25 interviews and assessments of low-income, older individuals caring for a family member with dementia or grandchildren. The researchers then implemented a series of low cost home modifications.

The Administration on Developmental Disabilities of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services funded the other project. Researchers assessed the abilities and homes of 80 older people with intellectual disabilities. Recommendations from these studies include the following:

Double railings: If your home has stairs, install a second set of railings. "The other railing offers more support to climb up and down plus allows some people the important opportunity to use their dominant hand," Olsen said.

Grab bars: Install grab bars in and around the tub. The bars enable people to climb into the tub or shower more easily.

Shower and tub seats: A seat in the bathtub enables someone to sit up in the tub rather than pulling herself up from tub floor. In a shower, these seats work well, so that no one has to stand and lose their bala

Contact: Sheryl Weinstein
New Jersey Institute of Technology

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