As we age our balance, eyesight and depth perception tend to weaken, creating hazards where none may have existed before. Making sure that the home of an aging person is “age-friendly” is fairly easy and important in order to prevent falls and other accidents. There are immediate actions that you can take to make the home safer and there are longer term construction options. Here are five ways to create an age-friendly home for your elderly loved one.
Remove clutter: Newspapers on the floor, piles of papers on counters, pens and pencils, and knitting needles, and other small items laying around the house all present a hazard to the elderly person. Clutter can cause trips and falls. Stacks of items on countertops can cause falls as well. If an elderly person starts to trip and grabs for the counter, if the papers fall so do they. It’s best to clean off surfaces as much as possible.
Remove scatter rugs: These colorful culprits cause many falls. Elderly people tend not to pick up their feet and may shuffle. If they shuffle into a scatter rug it may cause them to fall. Remove all scatter rugs from the house.
Improve lighting: As eyesight ages lighting needs to be brighter. Make sure that all the lamps in the house can safely take 60 watts or higher. Replace old ceiling lights with brighter, energy efficient bulbs. Make sure that the bedside lamp can be reached when the elderly person is lying down and remove all clutter between them and the lamp. The easier they can reach the lamp the more apt they are to turn it on before getting out of bed.
Floors and entries: Bamboo and other hardwood floors are much better than carpeting. Carpeting can stop the feet suddenly causing a fall hazard. Walkers and wheelchairs function well on hardwood, not carpeting. Make every entry way a flat “zero entry” without stairs or thresholds. This includes a zero entry shower which allows the elderly person to walk in without stepping over an edge.
Stepped counters and closet racks: If possible, it’s always helpful to install lower countertops that are easily accessed by those in wheelchairs. Closet racks should be lowered so that the elderly person does not have to reach up (potentially becoming dizzy and losing balance) and those in wheelchairs have easy access to closet racks.
Not everyone can afford to construct new rooms or a new home with safer, more accessible features. However, everyone can make sure that fall hazards are removed from the home. It is one of the easiest and best ways to keep the elderly safe and living in their own home.
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