According to the AARP, the number of households headed by people 65 and older will grow to 48 million in the next 20 years, and many of those adults plan to age in place for as long as they can. If you or a loved one want to stay at home as you get older, it’s crucial to make the home environment as safe as possible. Even if you’re currently active and healthy, as you age you may experience decreasing strength, balance and vision that might make your home more difficult to navigate safely. Because these issues can develop gradually, you may not be aware of your limitations until you have an accident or injury – so it’s best to make your home safer now.
Easy ways to improve your home’s safety
To review your home’s trouble spots, it’s a good idea to have a friend or family member provide input, as you may be unaware of potential hazards another person could see. Better yet, ask a trained occupational or physical therapist to visit your home to assess the environment. Your healthcare provider may be able to recommend someone.
1. Start by looking down
As you age, it’s harder to recover from sprains and broken bones, so it’s important to reduce tripping hazards to prevent falls in the first place. Remove these potential dangers:
• Throw rugs
• Cords – move them behind furniture or tape to the floor
• Small furniture like footstools and ottomans
• Clutter, like pairs of shoes
• Also consider what footwear you wear at home. Are your socks, slippers or shoes well-fitting and non-slip?
2. Increase bath safety
Bathing is a challenging activity for people with mobility or balance issues. While you could remodel your entire bathroom, there are smaller changes you can implement to reduce hazards. These include:
• Using non-slip mats or strips for your floor, shower or tub
• Installing safety grab bars in and around your tub
• Using a shower or tub seat and handheld nozzle for bathing
• Having a tub cut-out or step-in shower installed
3. Make sure using the toilet is safe and easy
When you can be independent in the bathroom, you maintain your dignity and have better peace of mind. Unfortunately, most toilets are low enough that they’re difficult for seniors or others with disabilities to safely get up and down.
One solution is the Bemis Independence Clean Shield 3-inch Elevated Toilet Seat, which is raised to ease sitting and standing. Installation is easy – the Snap 2 Secure system provides the correct clamping force so the seat will never loosen or shift, and its 3-inch height is ideal for seniors, plus anyone with mobility concerns, back, hip or knee issues. The Clean Shield is available on Amazon in a bundle featuring Support Arms and a new bidet attachment.
4. Check your stairs
Staircases are another high-risk area for accident or injury. Make sure there are railings, even for just a couple of steps, and that they are solid and secure. Keep clutter from accumulating on or near stairs, and consider adding stair treads to wooden stairs, replacing carpet with stair treads and/or applying differently colored tape to help differentiate one stair from the next.
5. Light it up
Using nightlights throughout the home can help with nighttime trips to the bathroom or moving around during early morning hours when it’s still dark. Light switches that are both easy to access and that light up can also help seniors find their way around more easily, any time of night or day.
With some thought and a little planning ahead, you can make it easier for yourself or your loved one to remain at home safely, for many years to come.