Create solutions for healthy, independent living

Careful readers of this column over the last few months will notice I've devoted a lot of attention to "age-friendly living." There's a reason.

Post-retirement, my husband and I decided to focus like a laser on creating a more optimal, age-friendly living environment, and we are intent on sharing our knowledge with age peers. The over-arching intention is to provide "creative solutions for a healthy and independent life."

We've immersed ourselves in current research on accessible, adaptable home environments and collaborated with experts locally and across the country on certification standards for safe, convenient, comfortable and affordable "lifelong housing."

Our goal is ensuring homes that minimize the likelihood of fall and fracture on a slippery floor — the kind of tumble my mother took in her late 80s and my mother-in-law took in her early 90s. It's the kind of home that lights your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night and is packed with practical, affordable, labor-saving devices that make life easier as you age.

This summer, my spouse and I went to Colorado and trained as "certified aging-in-place specialists" through the National Association of Home Builders.

We have invested in this topic of age-friendly living, and we feel an obligation to pass on our new knowledge.

Here are some of the "little things that mean a lot" we've learned about.

Let's start with your having a lighted key cover so you can more easily find the lock when opening your front door at night.

Or consider rubber stair treads on exterior stairs and better-lighted stairwells, inside and out.

Levered handles on doors make them easier to open for arthritic hands. If you don't have them in your current home, you can fasten a dowel or a piece of PVC pipe to the doorknob with a rubber band, securing both sides in a figure-eight pattern.

Those same arthritic hands may have trouble with knobs on drawers or cupboards. Replace them with wide, easy-pull handles that allow a better, maybe even pain-free, grip.

Glare can be a huge problem for aging eyes. Reduce glare by covering shiny desks and table tops, repositioning mirrors, TVs and computer screens or by using use light-filtering sheer curtains on windows so that direct light is reduced without making the room too dark.

The book "Home Accessibility: 300 Tips for Making Life Easier" by Shelley Peterman Schwarz might be a good purchase. It's a well-written, easy-to-read paperback loaded with good ideas.

But there are definitely more than those 300 tips — many more — that make life easier.

Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor emeritus. Reach her at 541-261-2037 or

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