It is no secret that staying in your home often becomes more difficult as you age, especially if unexpected health conditions or physical limitations begin to crop up. In some cases, this means it’s time to downsize to a smaller home that requires less upkeep, such as an apartment or condo where maintenance is the responsibility of another party. In other cases, this can simply mean reorganizing the current home to make living there easier.
Regardless of which option works best for your family, there are ways to organize a home to make living there safer and easier on its older inhabitants.
In this post, we will take a look at four common problems seniors face in the home and easy ways to get the senior person in your care organized. Start by analyzing their home, including its layout and the way in which it is organized, to spot any potential problems they could encounter.
Here are the top concerns we hear about:
4 Common Home Organization Problems for Seniors
1. Things on the floor
Walkways need to be kept clear, so organizational systems that keep belongings off of floors and out of dedicated walkways are integral.
2. Hazardous, broken, or impractical items
Mobility can be a challenge for some elderly people, so it is important to remove, replace, or repair broken items quickly. Tripping hazards should be removed and furniture that no longer serves their needs should be replaced with something more practical. This can mean installing more railings, grab bars, transfer chairs, and other safety products, as well as building an organizational system around those items.
3. Low lighting
The natural process of aging results in changes in vision, including a decrease in the amount of light entering the eye, reduction in peripheral vision, greater sensitivity to glare, difficulty focusing on objects, and a slower adjustment period when going from light to dark and vice versa (Park & Farr, 2007). These changes can cause issues for seniors in the home.
To combat this, every room—and perhaps even every cupboard or closet—should have bright, even lighting. This is easy to install thanks to LED light strips, pucks, and bars that can be added under cabinets, as well as inside cabinets, cupboards, closets, drawers, under beds and along steps. Many of these options are actually motion activated or light-sensitive, removing the need to actually physically turn on the lights.
Ascending and descending stairs can become a challenge as people age. If the senior in your life is determined to remain in a home with stairs, transitioning their belongings to the main floor as much as possible can reduce the risk of a fall or injury.
7 Ways to Get Organized
With the problem areas noted, it’s time to take a look at how you can make it easier to stay organized and keep track of where important items are stored. Here are 7 simple things you can do:
1. Put things where they make sense for the senior’s circumstances
While it is easy to organize a home in a way that “makes sense” based on expert opinions or your own personal preferences.
Organization has to work for the person who is going to live with it, so base the organizational system around a setup that they will actually use. For example, are pills kept in the kitchen cupboard? Then that should be where the pills are stored and organized. Keeping things in the places where they are used daily—where will be most easily remembered —is the only way this system will work.
2. Keep necessary things accessible
Make sure essential items such as keys, wallets, medications, mobility aids, glasses, etc. are visible and easy to access. Storing items in open sorting containers makes it easier for seniors to find the items they need to grab regularly.
3. Make items easy to reach
Vertical storage, while a convenient way to make use of space in small homes, is not always the safest way to store items in the home of an elderly person. Instead, raise or lower stored items to waist height for easy access that doesn’t require bending over or getting onto a step-stool to reach.
4. Use see-through, labelled containers
If it doesn’t make sense to have an item out because it isn’t needed on a regular basis, then place it in a see-through and clearly labelled container so it can quickly and easily be found.
5. Store documents together
While documents are increasingly becoming digital, hard copies are always good to have and many senior citizens find them easier to navigate. With that in mind, they should be sorted and stored appropriately. For example, medical information should be kept together and placed in a labelled binder or sealable waterproof folder. Important financial, government, employment, insurance, and personal documents should be stored together in a secure place, such as a fire- and waterproof safe. It is also a good idea to keep duplicate copies of any documents, such as wills and power of attorney, in a trusted and secure secondary location—some law firms have fireproof vaults for this exact purpose.
TSI TIP: Keep a copy of medical directives (such as a DNR), a current medication list, and a list of important phone numbers on the front of the refrigerator. This is the first place first responders look and can prove invaluable in a medical emergency.
It’s easy to accumulate stuff in our society, and nothing helps clear out a home and make organizing or downsizing an easier undertaking than getting rid of unnecessary items. You can start this process by
- Clearing out duplicate items - Kitchen utensils and tools are often big offenders.
- Getting rid of old, outdated tech - Just make sure you properly clear it of identifying information and dispose of it at the appropriate location.
- Sorting through clothing - Get rid of anything that no longer fits and that doesn’t have any emotional significance.
- Unused items in storage - Anything in storage that is not being saved for a particular reason, such as seasonal furniture or decorations, should be cleared out.
Check out our decluttering resources for more tips and advice.
7. Consult with a professional organizer
Some situations—such as a senior with a lot of belongings, a strong attachment to their items, or cognitive difficulties—may be more challenging to organize and might require the help of a certified professional. While it may seem like a bit of an extravagance to hire a professional organizer, you would be amazed at how much they can help:
“These pros have been certified and have spent years in the field learning and making contacts. This means they will know where to find the best products and solutions to suit your needs, and they’ll have access to a network of resources such as contractors, as well as be knowledgeable about where to donate or sell specific items. Because of their knowledge and contacts, they can often help you with or at least help facilitate junk removal, donations, etc.” - 6 Reasons to Hire a Professional Organizer
Learn more about our Professional Home Organizer Services.
Having an organized home is useful at any age, but it becomes more important as you get older. Creating an easy home organization setup for seniors can be simple, as long as you work with them to figure out how to address their needs.
Things to avoid:
- Items on the floor
- Hazardous, broken, or impractical items
- Low lighting
- Keeping important items up or down stairs instead of on the main floor
Practical ways to organize
- Store things where they are used
- Keep necessary items accessible
- Make items easy to reach
- Use see-through, clearly labelled containers
- Store documents together and keep duplicates
- Consult with a professional organizer
Ready to get organized?
Read our organization resources for expert tips and advice on decluttering and organizing your home.