Home is where the heart is, so it’s no wonder that most people want to live independently for as long as they can.
Since many seniors either live at home alone or with an ageing partner, it’s important to make sure the home is not just comfortable, but also safe and secure.
Even if you’re completely self-sufficient, some things just get a little harder as we get older. To help reduce the risk of accidents and falls in the home, here’s a comprehensive list of home safety tips for seniors.
Have proper precautions in place
Let’s start with the basics.
- Make sure there are working smoke alarms fitted, as required by legislation
- Keep a fire extinguisher on hand just in case
- Install durable locks on all windows and doors. You could also consider stainless steel mesh fly screens or a home security system
- A personal emergency alert system can be a smart investment, especially for seniors who live alone and have medical concerns
Sort out the surfaces
With around 30% of over 65s having experienced a fall in the last year, they’re one of the most common causes of injury and hospitalisation for seniors.
Addressing uneven and slippery surfaces around the home is a cost-effective way to improve safety and reduce the risk of falls.
- Remove area rugs or ensure they’re firmly tacked down to flooring
- Check for loose or slippery tiles and have them replaced, especially in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry
- Keep loose cords and cables secure with electrical tape to avoid trip hazards
- Install anti-slip surfaces in high traffic areas and stairways
Cut out the clutter
As cleaning queen Marie Kondo would say, if it doesn’t spark joy – it’s time to let it go.
- Enable easy passage. Rearranging furniture could give you more room to move around freely, especially if you’re using a walking aid
- If it does nothing but collect dust – get rid of it. Breathing in dust isn’t good for anyone, and if you have no use for it, maybe someone else will. You could have a garage sale or donate to a second-hand store like Good Sammy or Salvos - they even offer free home collections!
- Once you’ve assessed what you do and don’t need, store the things you use all the time within easy reach. Keep heavy objects at waist level, particularly around the kitchen
Let there be light!
Good lighting can do wonders to improve navigation around the house and reduce the risk of falls.
- Take advantage of natural light during the day by opening up curtains and blinds
- Make sure entrances and outdoor areas are well illuminated
- Install motion sensor lights at the top and bottom of stairs and outdoor areas
- Use touch lamps beside the bed so you’re not fumbling for the switch
- Leave a light on in the bathroom at night or use night lights to help with navigation
- Keep all light bulbs covered to reduce glare
Make some modifications
There are a number of simple modifications that can be made to make everyday tasks easier and reduce the risk of injury.
If you have any mobility challenges, it might be a good idea to seek professional advice from an occupational therapist. They will assess your home for potential risks and suggest modifications that can help you, based on your needs now and in the future.
- Add hand rails to staircases to help you maintain balance
- Install ramps to allow for walker and wheelchair accessibility
- Add grab bars in the shower or next to the toilet to prevent slippery falls
- Add a non-slip mat or shower seat to improve safety. You could also consider a step-in shower to improve accessibility
- Use a handheld shower head instead of a fixed shower head
- Add padding to sharp corners, particularly on furniture
- Consider widening doorways to allow for wheelchair accessibility
Ask for help if you need it
An extra hand can really go a long way.
Many over 65s have access to a government-funded Home Care Package, which provides extra assistance to help maintain their independence at home and in the community.
A support worker can visit your home at a time that suits you, lending a hand with everyday tasks that have gotten harder, like mopping and dusting, maintaining the garden, grabbing the groceries and even walking the dog.
Home Care Packages can also cover health services, like a physiotherapist designing an exercise plan to reduce your risk of falls, or an occupational therapist coming in to assess home safety.