Many elderly Americans lack the basic self-care equipment that could enable them to live at home longer, a study by University of California San Francisco researchers found. 

Researchers focused on three inexpensive devices: grab bars around the toilet and in the shower or tub area; a shower or tub seat; and a raised toilet or toilet seat. Of the study’s 2,600 Medicaid recipients with mobility issues, 42% lacked two or more of the devices, “resulting in a missed opportunity to help [them] live independently and safely,” the researchers reported. Study results appeared in JAMA Internal Medicine.

One of the study’s authors, Kenneth Lam, M.D., of the UCSF Division of Geriatrics, noted that each device costs around $50 and is not covered by Medicare. “Yet these low-tech interventions meaningfully reduce injury, enable independence, preserve dignity and improve quality of life in older people suffering from irreversible disability for complex multifactorial reasons,” Lam said. 

Lam said that our culture embraces reverse aging rather than the reality of adapting to aging. “A fixed mindset that does not tolerate the adaptations that have to come with an aging body can make the experience of aging much worse,” he said.