19 More Life Hacks to Keep You Out of the Nursing Home

“Life hacks” are little tricks and tips that helpmake life more efficient in some way. On Aug. 8 we published a list of seven life hacks, and since then readers have added several of their own. Graphic by Elizabeth Shell.

Earlier this month PBS NewsHour took viewers to Boston, where an organization in the neighborhood of Beacon Hill has become a national model for helping seniors maintain independence in their own homes and avoid moving to retirement communities. The group provides supportive services ranging from basic assistance like changing light bulbs to transportation to doctors’ appointments and even social outings to the symphony.

The philosophy is that most people are healthier, happier and more productive in the long-run if they can “age in place” in familiar surroundings. And often, the tricks to make that a reality are pretty simple.

To go along with this story, the NewsHour partnered with Allyson Evelyn-Gustave, a senior occupational at the School of Nursing at Johns Hopkins University to compile “Seven Life Hacks to Keep You Out of the Nursing Home.” A “life hack” is a simple tool or trick that some people find make a big difference in their lives. Evelyn-Gustave and several other Hopkins employees are helping implement these changes throughout Baltimore as part of the CAPABLE project, aimed at helping low-income seniors “age in place.”

After reviewing her original list, many NewsHour viewers added some “life hacks” of their own to the discussion. Here are 19 more simple fixes and tricks that could help keep you out of the nursing home: From viewer Mary Guercio:

  • Think large, deep drawers instead of shelves in kitchen.

  • Remove doors from upper cabinets so items can be more easily retrieved. Remove doors from vanity for safer, easier access.

  • Install portable handle grips (OXO makes a great one) on surfaces where having something to grab would help provide stability, i.e., mount on vanity counter, shower walls (non-porous surfaces only).

  • Use remote controls for light fixtures and the devices that can be simply touched rather than reaching up into lamps.

  • Small aluminum ramps are helpful for those in wheelchairs and scooters to allow safer egress from home onto patios and walkways.

  • Consider opening up a wall between your bedroom and bath for shorter, straighter and safer access.

  • Mount the bathroom faucet on the side of sink where it can be more easily reached. Use your tub chair (with arms!) at your vanity, too, for shaving, oral hygiene, etc. Place a few quality “grabbers” throughout the home to retrieve items that would require reaching or bending.

From viewer R.I. Pettigrew, during a recent PBS NewsHour Twitter chat:

  • Have things to look forward too, such as family gatherings and planned Skype dates.

From viewer Dawn Rogers:

  • Remove extension cords from walkways.

  • Get rid of throw rugs.

From viewer AJ Wielondek:

  • Store heavy and/or awkwardly-sized cookware at an easy-to-reach level to eliminate the necessity of step stools and ladders and to avoid back wrenching stooping by reaching down below.

From viewer Foxrepublican:

  • I have my father email a joke everyday by 10 a.m. This way I know he’s OK.

From several seniors, to PBS NewsHour Producer Mary Jo Brooks:

  • Live near the sound of children to keep your spirits young.

From viewer Marilyn:

  • Use a nightlight that lights up automatically when the room is dark and shuts off automatically in daylight.

  • Replace doorknobs with door openers that push down.

From viewer Katharine Shishkovsky:

  • For people who tire easily or have balance issues, use a shower chair, along with rails in the shower.

From viewer Nancy Best:

  • Replace existing low toilets with high ones. Raising and lowering one’s body on a raised toilet is kinder on the knees and the process is more comfortable.

From viewer Barbara Hannon:

  • Live on one floor, if possible.

From viewer Gwendoline Spurll:

  • Install railings on both sides of the stairs to ensure you can always hold on.

Do you have more “life hacks” for maintaining independence longer? Leave them in the comments section below.