When we enter the winter years of our life, many of the most basic household tasks become potentially problematic and even unsafe. Our bodies don’t always hold up in old age, but even when they do, it pays to increase your awareness of how safe—or dangerous—living in your home might be. With the right planning, seniors still living at home can take the proper precautions to increase the safety of their home so that they can continue enjoying it for years to come.
As more seniors 65 and up are choosing to live alone, it’s important to talk about any potential dangers and ways to improve home safety. Here are our top 20 safety tips for keeping yourself or your loved ones happy, healthy, and safe throughout their homes.
1. Consider purchasing a medical alert device. In the event of a fall or accident, you’ll have instant access to emergency medical service.
2. If your balance or mobility is giving you issues, or you’ve experience a fall within the last year, you can talk to your healthcare provider about a ‘special falls risk assessment.’
3. Install lighting in high-traffic areas of the home, such as the stairs and hallways. Installing a light switch at the top and bottom of staircases is also beneficial.
4. Tape area rugs to the floor to prevent them from shifting and causing a fall, or use anti-slipping pads beneath the rugs. Avoid using scatter rugs at the base or top of stairs.
5. To prevent additional tripping hazards, consider using cord covers so all cords and cables are secured and out of the way, preferably against walls or behind furniture.
6. Utilizing handrails for all staircases and hallways, and installing grab bars in the bathroom, can greatly improve the safety of seniors moving throughout their home.
7. Seniors are at greater risk of suffering adverse effects due to high temperatures, so have a professional ensure that all electrical equipment in the house works properly, including air conditioning units.
8. Don’t overload circuits. Anything that isn’t in use should be unplugged with the cords tied up and out of the way.
9. If stairs are too difficult to manage with your current or expected mobility issues, look into installing a stairlift or residential elevator.
10. Proper lighting is crucial to making your home safer. You can also install nightlights in hallways and adequate lighting in all rooms and walk-in closets/pantries you use.
11. Decluttering your home—removing objects from the floor and spacing furniture out evenly so that there is ample space to move around—can eliminate tripping hazards and help prevent injuries due to bumping into hard pieces of furniture.
12. Instead of standing on chairs or stools that may not be able to support you safely, use stepping stools or a reacher to reach things on high shelves.
13. Make sure your most commonly used items are on lower shelves where they are easy to reach. This is especially important in rooms like the bathroom and kitchen.
14. Wear non-slip socks or shoes on smooth floors, and mark areas of your home with different levels to avoid tripping over or off overhangs.
15. Note the height of your bed. Your bed is too high if your feet don’t’ touch the floor while sitting on it. Lowering it (by removing the box spring) can help prevent accidents getting in or out of bed. Likewise, your bed is too low to the ground if your knees are higher than your hips while sitting. You can fix that by adding a box spring.
16. Rubber mats in the shower or bathtub can help prevent slipping while entering or existing.
17. Keep a cordless phone in your house or nearby at all times. This serves two purposes: You won’t have to rush to answer the phone, and you’ll have access to it should you need to call someone in the event of an accident or emergency.
18. Wet and damp surfaces in the house should be avoided. When spills occur, clean them up to avoid creating a fall hazard.
19. Toilet seats can be used for easier access, and shower seats can provide respite if standing in the shower is too difficult.
20. Consult with a healthcare professional about your needs so that you can make sure you have everything, or access to everything, you might need to continue enjoying your home safely.
It’s not hard to make a home more livable for those deciding to age in place or live alone, but it’s very important to take the steps—either for yourself or your loved ones—to ensure that the house’s inhabitant is comfortable and healthy.