Falls can be devastating to a senior’s ability to lead an independent life. Most falls in older people occur due to changes in their center of gravity, loss of muscle strength, age-related changes in vision, the effects of medication, etc.
A survey recently conducted by AARP showed that 70% of seniors have made at least one modification to their homes that they hope will allow them to stay in their home for an additional 10 years. Being pro-active and making even minor improvements in the home can make it comfortable and safe as you age.
Homes have many areas that are dangerous to older adults who have vision and balance issues. These include rugs that are not secured, electrical cords that are improperly placed, and poor lighting.
Here are just a few of some simple things you can do to prevent falls and help senior maintain a more independent life while at home:
Talk to them: Ask where they may have trouble around the house and watch to see where they have difficulty moving around. For my mother, it is reaching for objects that are too high or too low.
Eliminate clutter to reduce the chances of trips and falls. This can include low plants, magazines and newspapers, electrical cords and other items that are on the floor.
Make sure floors are clear and in good condition – Walking paths and hallways should be clear of obstacles. Carpet should be low pile and area rugs should be removed or secured to the floor to avoid tripping. Tile and vinyl floors can be slippery when wet.
Wear shoes - wearing the wrong shoes is a common cause of falls. Choose shoes that have low heels with rubber or non-skid soles. Socks can be slippery to walk in, so wear shoes even when you are at home.
Stairs should have handrails/banisters on both sides.
Make sure there is good lighting throughout the home. Use night lights in corridors and bathrooms. Age related changes in vision reduce the ability to see changes in floor height and the presence of obstructions in the path that could be hazardous. Adjusting to changes in light from outdoors to indoors and from room to room can also create issues.
Make sure furniture is not too low so that an older person can get up without difficulty. Chairs with arms can be helpful as well.
Make sure kitchen cabinets are easily reachable without the use of a step stool. Install roll out shelves where possible.
In the bathroom: Install grab bars. Climbing into/over a bathtub can be dangerous. If there is a tub shower, consider replacing it with a walk-in shower with built in seating. Make sure there are non-skid surfaces on the floor.
Replace twist/turn doorknobs with lever handles
Consider adding a ramp if someone in the home uses a wheelchair consider adding a ramp outside to make getting in and out of the house easier
Each of these little things will make a big difference in enhancing a senior’s comfort and well being.
For a detailed list, please refer to the Home Safety Checklist for Older Adults from the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors which is available at: