Many senior citizens struggle with mobility as they continue to age.  One common solution to this issue is a wheelchair.  Many seniors use wheelchairs to move around.  In fact, older adults tend to lose their mobility as they age due to things like strokes, arthritis, and injuries from falls. Many misconceptions surrounding being wheelchair bound like seniors potentially disconnecting themselves from society due to limited mobility and home life being more difficult to navigate than in the past. Read below to see some home wheelchair tips for seniors that can make life easier and some activities seniors can do while in a wheelchair to stay connected and engaged.

Ways to Make the House more Wheelchair Accessible

While being in wheelchair can be a hard adjustment for a senior, there are ways to make their home more wheelchair friendly to help them adapt.  Just because a senior uses a wheelchair does not mean they cannot stay in the comfort of their own home.  Here are some tips for seniors using wheelchairs to help make their home more wheelchair accessible.

Install Wheelchair Ramps

Installing a wheelchair ramp to the entrance of your senior loved one’s home is the first step to making the home wheelchair friendly.  Wheelchair ramps allow a senior in a wheelchair to easily get to the entry way of their home, as well as, are easy to install and convenient for everyone.  When selecting a wheelchair ramp, the senior’s specific personal and senior needs are what need to determine the type of ramp that is bought.  Some types of wheelchair ramps for seniors that have different benefits are:

  • Aluminum wheelchair ramps: cost-effective, simple, durable
  • General threshold ramps: portable, can be placed anywhere that is convenient
  • Pathway ramps: lightweight stability and security
  • Modular ramps: best for homes that require more elevation

Wheelchair Friendly Doors

Making the doorways wheelchair friendly is the next method for making the senior’s home more wheelchair accessible.  Doorways need to be wide enough for a senior to be able to get the wheelchair through comfortably and as easily as possible.  Some helpful ways to make the doorways in a senior’s home more wheelchair friendly are:

  • Widen the door to at least 32”, but it is recommended to have doorways of 36” wide for comfortable passage
  • Make doors easy to open: it is recommended to use door handles, pulls, or latches that are easy on the hands and wrists
  • Install offset hinges
  • Remove doors or trim
  • Don’t use automated doors because they can close too quickly

Bathroom Appliances

For seniors in a wheelchair, using the bathroom can be a stressful burden.  However, bathroom trips do not have to be stressful burdens.  Here are some ways to help make the bathroom a less burdensome experience for a wheelchair bound senior:

  • Install a shower seat so the senior can sit while rinsing off
  • Install grab bars to help support the senior onto the toilet or shower seat
  • Slip-proof the bathroom to help prevent any accidents that could happen from a wet floor
  • Install a toilet riser if the toilet seat is too low for a comfortable transfer

More Accessible Bedrooms

Having a wheelchair friendly bedroom for a senior is the next way to help them around the house.  A wheelchair friendly bedroom can allow the senior to have a place to relax and have to themselves.  Here are some tips for seniors using wheelchairs on how to make their bedroom wheelchair accessible:

  • Look for a bed that is big enough for the senior to sleep on but still leaves enough space for movement
  • The mattress for the bed needs to be less than 21” tall so the senior does not need to climb on the bed
  • Have anything that might be needed during the night on a nightstand next to the bed for easy access during the night
  • Dressers should be in reach of the bed so the senior can access it easily but have enough space to get dressed and move around.

Small Improvements Around the House

There are also many different small things that can be done to make life easier for a senior in a wheelchair at home.  The small details to could have a large impact on the life a wheelchair bound senior and work wonders to make life easier in their home.  A few of the tips for seniors using wheelchairs that can be done around the house to make their home more wheelchair friendly are:

  • Limit the amount of furniture in the house to allow more freedom and movement
  • Unless the house has an elevator or stair lift, move the bedroom and bathroom to the first floor to minimize the use of stairs
  • Purchase a smart doorbell to see who is at the door and potentially save trips to the door
  • Install an alarm system. It could possibly save the senior’s life if it goes off and the senior isn’t in the wheelchair the alarm will alert the authorities.

Methods for Seniors Using Wheelchairs to Stay Connected

There are many activities seniors can still enjoy doing while being wheelchair bound. Here are some tips for seniors using wheelchairs to remain engaged and connected.

Exercise Daily

Seniors who are in a wheelchair can still exercise and stay physically healthy.  It has been proven to help make seniors stronger and more flexible.  Wheelchair exercises will help the body prevent soreness.  Also, exercise can help as senior’s mental health.  It has been shown to help seniors using wheelchairs to have better moods.  In addition, exercise can increase happiness, reduce stress, increase energy levels, and improve sleep.  When doing exercises in a wheelchair, it is a good idea to have a wheelchair belt to prevent falling out of the wheelchair.  Here are some examples of exercises seniors who use a wheelchair can still do:

  • Knee to Chest
  • Sit and Reach
  • Seated Twists
  • Wheelchair Push-ups
  • Bicep Curls
  • And more

Mind Stimulation

Stimulating the mind is a great way for seniors in wheelchairs to stay connected and keep the mind sharp.  Also, it will help increase the senior’s mental health.  Studies have shown that doing “brainy” activities will stimulate new connections between nerve cells and possibly generate new cells.  This will help to develop neural plasticity and build up function that will fight against cell loss in the future.  Here are some specific tips for seniors using wheelchairs to help stimulate the mind:

  • Reading
  • Crossword Puzzles
  • Sudoku’s
  • Drawing
  • Playing Games

Add a New Hobby

Seniors at a great stage of life to develop new hobbies.  There may be some things they have never experience before that they have never done before that they can still learn.  Also, hobbies can keep the mind active and prevent seniors from being bored.  Some examples of hobbies for seniors who use a wheelchair are:

  • Knitting
  • Crocheting
  • Playing an instrument
  • Learning a language
  • Birdwatching

Stay Engaged with Friends and Family

A great way for seniors in wheelchairs to stay engaged and connected is to be surrounded by family and friends.  Family and friends can provide a level of comfort for the senior and prevent them from being lonely.  Bringing young children to play around seniors or even a friendly pet can be an extremely fun, rejuvenating, and youthful experience for anyone.

Visit At Home Senior Services

Living life with a wheelchair can be difficult for a senior to adapt too.  Home care is a solution that can help make home life easier for any senior making a major transition in life. Home care can give the senior in your life the ability to remain independent at home by having the assistance of a compassionate caregiver who can perform daily activities that can be difficult for a senior. Agencies like At Home Senior Services can help. At Home Senior Services is an in-home care agency dedicated to helping seniors age in place throughout the Greater Pittsburgh Area. Visit www.athomeseniorservices.com  or call 412-604-0410 to start the process of connecting with a caregiver.