According to a 2021 study by AARP, most older adults in the U.S. (79 percent) own their own homes, and about three-quarters of those over 50 years old would like to stay in their current homes or communities for as long as possible.
Based on this study and related trends we’re seeing at Blakeford Senior Living, chances are good that many of your loved ones will decide to age-in-place. When seniors enjoy their golden years at home, it’s important to ensure their living space continues to be a safe, accessible environment. Conducting a home safety assessment for the elderly will help you spot where improvements can be made and identify potential hazards.
Key Areas and Tips for Senior Safety Assessments
Here is an overview of key areas to check and tips to improve safety and accessibility:
Check to see where seniors store things in their kitchen, how they are accessed, and what kind of shape appliances are in.
If you find frequently used items on higher shelves or in under-the-counter cabinets, move them to more accessible locations that don’t require reaching, a step stool, or bending over. Lazy Susan’s and pantry door-mounted racks are good storage options to provide easy access.
Older ovens should be checked because many have burner controls mounted on the back panel which isn’t optimal. Controls located at the front of the oven allow seniors to access them without reaching over the stove burners. In some cases, it may be advisable to replace a gas stove with an electric model to guard against the gas being accidentally left on.
Replace their older small appliances, such as coffee makers and toaster ovens, with models that are easier to use and have an automatic shut-off feature.
This is an area of the house that presents an elevated fall risk because seniors are often walking through them in the dark. Here are some ideas on how to balance comfort and safety in bedrooms.
Get the height of the bed right. A senior should be able to sit on the edge of the bed with their knees bent and their feet flat on the floor. This makes getting in and out of bed easier on joints and improves balance.
Make proper lighting a priority. Place a lamp near the bed so it’s easy to reach. Put in a nightlight so the path to the bathroom is illuminated. Also, suggest that a senior keep a flashlight in the nightstand for emergencies.
Clear a path for safer movement. Get rid of any clutter, furniture, wires, extension cords, throw rugs or any other trip hazards between the bed and the bathroom.
This is arguably the most hazardous area of the home because bathrooms pose so many potential dangers ranging from wet floors to scalding water. Here are some key areas to inspect.
Even if a senior has good balance, grab bars are easy to install and are very effective at providing additional support in the shower/tub or while using the toilet. There is a wide variety of items to consider when looking for accessories for Aging-In-Place safely.
Check the hot water heater setting. Set the hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, and make sure hot and cold faucets are clearly labeled.
Showers should ideally have a step-free entry. There are step-in tub models available that feature a door for easy entrance and exit. The shower/tub should be equipped with a seat, a hand-held showerhead, and a shelf at a convenient height so bath products can be reached easily.
Washers and Dryers
In many homes, the washer and dryer aren’t on the main level of the home. That means seniors use the stairs while carrying laundry baskets which is a safety concern.
Consider relocating washers and dryers to the main level of the home by repurposing a closet or finding another easily accessible location.
Replace top-loading machines with front-loading appliances that are easier to use. A stackable machine may be a good option, particularly if finding space on the main floor is a challenge.
All the access points to the home need to be checked. Uneven, damaged, or overgrown walkways greatly increase the likelihood of a fall.
Inspect walkways for cracks, loose bricks or stones, and uneven surfaces. Make repairs to provide a level walking surface.
Check and cut back any landscaping that’s growing into a walkway to ensure bushes or branches aren’t impinging on the path. This is especially important if a senior uses a wheelchair or walker.
If there are any steps into the home, make sure sturdy handrails are on both sides of the stairs. Check for non-slip treads and make sure the stairs are deep enough to accommodate the whole foot.
Garage, Shed, and Basement
The tools, equipment, and even vehicles seniors accumulate over the years of working and playing usually end up stored somewhere in the home. As they age-in-place, many of these things aren’t used anymore.
Look for old fuel cans, oil, propane tanks, lawn products and dispose of them properly. The containers for many of these eventually break down and if improperly stored pose a fire hazard.
Equipment and vehicles such as lawnmowers, snowblowers, motorcycles, and cars not only take up space but if they aren’t being used the fuel, fluids, and batteries can create dangerous fumes and potentially spark a fire.
For seniors, stairs are treacherous and need to be well-maintained and clear of any objects.
Sometimes, instead of going up or down the stairs, seniors get into the habit of putting things on the stairs for a later trip. If you see evidence of this, emphasize why they need to keep the stairways clear.
To ensure stairs are always well lit, check to see if there’s a light switch at the top and bottom of the stairway.
Examine the carpeting to see if it’s securely attached on every step. If carpeting has issues and there’s hardwood flooring underneath, remove it and install and non-slip treads.
For seniors who chose to age-in-place in the Nashville, TN area, Blakeford Senior Life’s LiveWell program offers a suite of benefits delivered to your home so you can continue to live a safe, independent, and healthy life in your own space. To learn more about LiveWell’s range of services, contact a compassionate caregiver today!