For seniors, aging-in-place can be empowering because it preserves their independence for longer. However, there are also risks to them doing so for extended periods of time.
The WHO reveals that 20-30% of American seniors who experience falls are likely to incur moderate to severe injuries. These falls that the WHO adds is the second-leading cause of unintentional deaths worldwide, usually come about due to the physical and sensory changes caused by aging, as well as environments that are not adapted to adjust to these changes.
Yet this is only one possible safety risk. There are more physical and even digital possibilities that may impede a senior’s ability to enjoy a safe home environment while aging in place. So with all of this in mind, we’ve listed what you can do to prevent them.
Make the house fall-proof
Slips and falls can happen due to slippery floors, unstable furniture, and a cluttered home. These issues can be easily fixed. Remove wax residue after polishing floors. Secure rugs, mats, or carpets with anti-slip tape. Install banisters on the staircases and have some form of traction on the steps. The same goes for the bathroom, like in the toilet and bath or shower. Repair or replace wobbly furniture. Finally, ensure all areas of the home are lit to improve visibility.
Prevent fire hazards
There are many things you can do to avoid fire hazards. Make sure any space heaters or candles are placed away from curtains, tablecloths, and bed sheets. Use kitchen appliances that turn off automatically. Check and maintain fireplaces regularly. Install smoke alarms in every room as well. The Communication Service for the Deaf recommends smoke alarms that use strobe lights and bed-shaking to alert residents with hearing loss. Finally, make sure your senior knows what to do in case a fire occurs. You can draft an emergency exit plan for them to help them remember exactly what to do in case of an emergency and walk them through the steps.
Lower the risk of theft
Theft can be avoided on a physical level through some fundamental practices. This includes always asking for identification from strangers like deliverymen, as well as locking doors and windows, keeping the lights on, and closing the curtains at night. Today, seniors also have to be aware of digital risks like phishing emails, online scams, and even social engineering. Maryville University explains this type of security breach manipulates people into unconsciously creating vulnerabilities. For example, thieves can use vacation-themed social media posts to find empty houses to rob while the occupants are away.
Prepare for medical emergencies
There are a few things you can do to prevent — or, at the very least, prepare — for medical emergencies that occur while seniors are home alone. To avoid incidents regarding any prescribed medication, try smart dispensers that remind users to take pills with alarms and blinking lights. Additionally, the ADAPT Network recommends using modern wearable devices. Worn around the neck or wrist, these devices can sense when a fall takes place. They also have buttons seniors can press to alert nearby emergency services.
Make the home more accessible
We at HandyPro emphasize that for retirees to live safely, comfortably, and independently, everything in the home should be accessible. Areas needed for daily living — like the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and living room, among others — should ideally be on the same floor. Light switches, surfaces, and other tabletops should be easy for a retiree to reach regardless of whether they’re using a wheelchair or other mobility aids. Doorways should also be wide enough for wheelchairs and other walker to pass through. These conditions can help prevent any of the safety risks listed above.
When a retiree you know chooses to age in place, it’s natural for you to worry about what may happen to them if no one else is around. By helping them establish a routine that uses both common sense and modern technology, you can rest easier knowing that they’re safer at home.