Simple Ways to Dramatically Increase Home Safety

AARP HomeFit

This month, we’re partnering with AARP California to present HomeFit, a new AARP program to increase the safety of older adults at home. The free program will be presented online in two identical sessions on December 3 and 17. Details and registration information here

By 2030, nearly 30 percent of all Americans will be 65 and older—and most of those individuals will want to continue living at home for as long as possible. However, many of today’s homes are not adequately built nor equipped to properly handle the needs of aging individuals.

We all like to think of our homes as our safe havens, but the truth is that more than half of all accidents, including fatal ones, happen there. According to the National Institute on Aging, 6 out of 10 falls occur at home, and these are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries to older adults. To put this even more into perspective: according to the CDC, every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall and, every 19 seconds, an older adult dies as result of a fall.

The good news is that small, easy changes we can make at home can go a long way to lessen our chances of accidents, including falls and other maladies. Grace-Sonia Melanio, a program specialist with AARP California, says “Research shows that home modifications, even small ones like installing night-lights and lamp timers, can reduce the need for costly medical care, increase the ability of older adults to manage activities of daily living, and enhance their independence.”

She offers these few simple tips to enhance home safety:

  • Add a bench to your entry space to put on and remove shoes safely.
  • Illuminate your address numbers or use glow in the dark or reflective stickers to make it easier for first responders (and pizza delivery) to find your home.  
  • To prevent falls, make sure that stairway and hallway lights have on and off switches at both ends of the hall, and at the top and bottom of the stairs.

Jill Patterson, an occupational therapist for Institute on Aging’s Community Living Services, adds that the holidays are a time when the rate of accidents can surge as both objects and schedules shift. She points out that “Clear pathways may be compromised as furniture may be moved to accommodate a Christmas tree or other decorations. The use of extension cords may also create a fall risk if it crosses a pathway. Other factors include unsafe use of step ladders for putting up decorations, poor visibility due to holiday lighting, and fire risk from overly dried trees and use of candles. Furthermore, changes in routine may cause people to forget to take their medication, especially if they have family visiting or are visiting family.”

Patterson recommends pathways should always be kept clear and clutter free. Either remove area or throw rugs, or secure them to the floor—but keep a non-slip mat near the entrance, especially during the rainy season. She also always recommends adequate lighting in all areas of a home, the use of night lights in the bathroom and along walkways, and to switch out wick-burning candles with battery operated LED ones.

Want to learn more about the simple and easy ways to make your home safer and more secure for yourself and your loved ones? Join IOA and AARP California on December 3 or December 17 for the free HomeFit class. Register here.

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Institute on Aging

Committed to offering thoughtful discussions and resources to older adults, their families, and their caregivers.

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