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Age-friendly options make life easier

We’re hearing the term “age-friendly” more often these days.

AARP recently published the "2015 Age-Friendly Report: Inspiring Communities.” It contains 16 case studies from the United States and around the world about ideas to make your neighborhood more livable (www.facebook.com/agefriendlyinnovation).

It talks about the concept of accessory dwelling units (ADUs), small independent housing units created within single family homes — or on their lots. It may be one of the ultimate aging-in-place solutions; it allows grandma to move out of the big family home she has been rambling around in since grandpa died and into a small, fully accessible cottage just across the patio. Mom and dad and their three kids live in the big house and keep an eye on grandma, but in a fashion that preserves the independence of all involved.

Intergenerational living where elders and students reside together in the same building is another version of that. Or in some cases, the home-owning elder fills his or her home with care-providing student renters. According to the AARP report, that concept works especially well in certain regions of France.

As we age, we sometimes feel stuck or trapped. As a result, we become less than friendly toward ourselves, our neighbors and the world at large. It helps to know there are options. We always have options.

Maybe it starts small — this business of friendlier aging.

Ask yourself, "What are those products and services that make life easier and more convenient?" It’s probably different for each individual, but I have a few suggestions. A personal favorite is occupancy or motion-sensor lighting; the light comes on automatically when you enter a room, and then it automatically turns off a few minutes after you exit. Such an easy way to ensure you don’t trip and fall on a dog toy while carrying a basket of unwashed clothes to their sudsy destination. Once I get inside our laundry room, I use a sturdy step-stool with a waist-level, bar-type handle. I've found it to be the safest way to step up to an out-of-reach cleaning product or other item.

In the kitchen, I want products that have large enough print on their packages to make easy reading for old eyes (14-point font is best, but most processed food packages have print size that’s more like 8-point — argh). It’s a reminder to eat less of those types of foods, but when I do, the large magnifying glass I have on the kitchen counter is a godsend.

If you’re an iPad user, purchase a mounting stand for it — we have one that allows me to enlarge the print after I Google a recipe. And it has a built-in speaker so my aging ears can listen to a favorite chef tell me how to make avocado lettuce wraps.

A few years ago, I was not even aware that avocado lettuce wraps existed. Let alone motion-sensor lights for the laundry or pantry. Ever learning as I age, I'm reaching for those life options that make things easier, better, friendlier.

Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor emeritus. Reach her at Sharon@agefriendlyinnovators.org.