We like to think of our homes as safe havens, places to rest and relax and enjoy comfortable, private sanctuary from the world. But as we age, and our capabilities become more limited, the potential of the home to become a dangerous place full of hazards and potential harm and injury increases. Most older adults naturally want to retain their independence, and are understandably reluctant to give up the homes they’ve lived in for most or sometimes all of their adult lives. Nearly half of all accidents happen at home, so taking a few precautions and ensuring the home is as safe as can be will pay dividends down the line for older adults choosing to live at home.
One of the biggest dangers to older adults living at home is falls. 6 out of 10 falls occur in the home, and falling is the number one cause of injury to seniors, both fatal and nonfatal. In fact, every minute, three older adults suffer a fatal injury as a result of a fall. The two main factors in preventing falls are pathways and lighting. Removing clutter from the home to keep footpaths clear, as well as getting rid of area rugs that might cause trips, lowering thresholds in doorways that can snag a foot, and adding rails to the bathroom to assist with entering and exiting the shower, as well as sitting down and standing up from the toilet, can do wonders in preventing the dangers of a fall. Making sure all your hallways and rooms have adequate lighting will also prevent falls due to unseen hazards at night. Don’t forget outdoor spaces as well. Cracked or uneven front walks, steep porch steps, or overgrown plants and low branches can all cause seniors to lose footing on their way in or out of the home.
Of course falls aren’t the only danger to seniors in the home. Dangers like fire or carbon monoxide are of particular risk to seniors, who might not be able to respond to hazards as quickly. Ensuring every bedroom and hallway has a smoke and a carbon monoxide detector, with batteries tested and changed regularly will increase home safety. If possible, consider a smart home alarm system where emergency services are automatically notified of tripped alarms.
While cell phones are increasingly common these days, many seniors might be confused by them. Small size, awkward touchscreens, a staggering number of features, all of these are reasons that seniors might not be able to depend on them in an emergency. Installing a landline in the home, or upgrading the current landline to a phone with large, easy to read buttons, and emergency service numbers either clearly labeled nearby, or on speed dial, will make it that much easier for an older adult to contact help in the event of an emergency. Ensuring the outside of the home has the address numbers brightly lit and visible from the street will also aid emergency services in locating the home that much faster.