Out of all Australians who live with some kind of disability, 1.9 million of them are older than 65. That’s almost half of all disabled people in the country, many of whom would rather remain living at home as they get older.
That said, here are some safety modifications to help seniors age a little safer and live a little easier in their homes.
The bathroom is easily the most dangerous area of the home for people with mobility limitations. This is because the combination of water from showers or sinks with all the smooth surfaces makes it all too easy to slip over.
Not only are falls in the bathroom a common occurrence, but disabled people and older adults can be severely injured or even die.
While grab bars are a good idea here, many people don’t want their bathroom to look like a public disabled restroom. A curbless walk-in shower would be a better choice for those who want their accessible bathroom to still be inviting, with a separate bathtub if there’s enough room.
Curbless showers are ideal for wheelchairs, walkers, or anyone at risk of falls, but they also look stylish and can be used by anyone regardless of their ability.
Just like bathrooms, kitchen surfaces also get wet and slippery very easily. Combine this with the frequency of use and the potentially dangerous implements, kitchens are another room that needs to be modified correctly to ensure safety and accessibility.
Anti-slip flooring is important for the kitchen, and ensure the stove has controls fitted at the front.
All kitchen cabinets should be lowered with slide-out drawers installed. In fact, all cookware, tableware, and appliances should also be at an accessible height for everyone, typically around waist height to avoid crouching down or use of a step stool.
Installation of new kitchen taps such as highly accessible one-touch, single-lever, or fully automatic faucets is also recommended.
When it comes to personal spaces like bedrooms, they should be designed to suit individual preferences as well as for optimal safety and sleep.
As the most important part of any senior’s bedroom, the bed should be at a suitable height for ease of getting in and out of it. There also needs to be enough space for two people to manoeuvre around it while also using a mobility aid if required.
It’s also important to avoid trips by ensuring all bed sheets, skirting, comforters, or doonas aren’t hanging to the floor.
And if any bedroom furniture like the bed frame, side drawers, or end tables have sharp corners, they should all have padding to avoid painful knocks and accidents.
Seniors spend a lot of time in the living room, so it’s important to ensure it is both comfortable and safe.
Discard and replace any unsteady and wobbling furniture to prevent accidental falls, and ensure all seating is at the right height to easily go from standing to sitting and vice versa.
Only keep the furniture you need in the lounge room with plenty of space to move around safely. To avoid any tripping hazards, add anti-slip strips to increase traction beneath mats or rugs and cover sharp edges of furniture with plastic corners.
Also, arrange everything around the power outlets so they’re easy to reach and so that lamps and other appliances don’t need long extension cords.
To reduce the risk of trips or falls outside, all exterior areas should always be level and highly visible, especially when it’s dark.
That means adding appropriate exterior and landscape lighting to cover all high traffic areas like entryways, and stairs.
Automatic lights that turn on when motion is detected are the best for this so that anyone who is moving around outside can see without finding switches or wasting electricity.
The front exterior door should have a peephole installed, and at least one entry into the home needs to have no stairs.
If that’s not possible, install a fixed or temporary ramp in order to smoothly transition in and out. It’s also a good idea to have some chairs or a bench along paths or walkways where seniors can rest.