Why an Older House Might Have More Safety Risks Than a New One?

Reading 1 Min

Over the years, it is natural to develop an emotional attachment to your home. From the flowers blooming in the flower bed to memories of a festive Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas with the kids—your home is where you feel comfortable and happy. 

Although a recent survey revealed that 90% of older adults prefer to age in place, another study by the Census Bureau disclosed that only 10% of houses had aging-accessible features, such as handrails in the bathroom, a step-free entryway, a wheelchair-accessible kitchen or safety bed steps for the elderly.

An aging-friendly house is essential for seniors who wish to spend the latter years in their homes. A hazard-free space preventing slips and falls, accidental fires or electrical shocks creates a safe and healthy environment for independent living. 

To make a house suitable for aging in place, you can eliminate any safety hazards in the home for the elderly with necessary aging-in-place modifications. However, it becomes tricky to do so when seniors decide to stay in old homes that may pose greater safety risks. Let’s delve into why might an older house have more safety risks than a new one.

elders who age in place

Here are 6 reasons why new houses are safer than older ones for aging in place:

  1. Old houses have endured more wear and tear over the years and may not be structurally strong anymore. 
  2. Old houses may lack basic aging-friendly infrastructures like ramps and wide doorways. 
  3. Replacing worn-out electrical wiring, plumbing and making structural changes to an old house may make it weaker besides draining out your finances. 
  4. New houses have to adhere to safety and accessibility norms prescribed by government policies. 
  5. New homes are earthquake resistant and have fire safety measures in place, like fire exits, smoke detectors and sprinkler systems. 
  6. Most new homes have generator backup in case of a power outage, making them a better choice for seniors aging in place. 

Safety Risks and How to Deal with Them

Any home, whether new or old, will need some modifications to make it aging-ready. With age, you might need a bedroom step stool or handrails in the bathroom to prevent falls. From major improvements like widening doorways and installing stairlifts to simple adaptations like a bathroom step stool, you must choose changes based on your individual need and budget. Additionally, you should keep a home-safety checklist to understand the safety hazards in the home for the elderly and make the necessary changes. Let’s take a look at some of the safety risks and how to deal with them.

Slips and Falls

Fall prevention is critical as it is the most common cause of injury among older adults. While falls can result in severe injury and hospitalization, some accidents can be fatal too. However, one can prevent falls in the elderly by following some safety rules.

  • Keep the walking and access area clear of wires, throw rugs or any other objects you might trip and fall over. Tape rugs and carpets so that they do not move when you step on them. 
  • Install a bathtub step stool and grab rails in the bathroom for support and safety
  • Wear non-slip socks on smooth floors. 
  • Use a step stool in the bedroom to get in and out of bed.
  • Install handrails for stairs. Make sure the stairway is well lit. 
  • Keep mobility aids like canes or walkers within reach at all times. 
  • Use a medical alert system that informs emergency services when you press the alarm.

safety hazards in the home for the elderly

Fires

Fire safety is of utmost importance. In case of a fire in the house, do not try to put it out yourself. Leave the house immediately and call 911. Make sure you know of two ways to get out of the house in case of a fire and practice a mock drill from time to time. 

  • Install a smoke detector and replace the battery twice a year.
  • Don’t wear loose clothing or long sleeves while working in the kitchen. 
  • Store gasoline, paint and other flammable substances away from ignition sources
  • Do not leave candles burning in any room or smoke in bed.
  • Keep heating appliances away from furniture, curtains and other flammable material.

Electric Shock

Electric shocks are a genuine safety hazard in the home for the elderly. Regular upkeep and safe use of electrical appliances can reduce the chances of an electric shock.

  • Check the cords of all appliances and make sure they are intact. Replace all frayed and damaged cords to minimize the risk of an electric shock. 
  • Beware of exposed wiring and secure all switches with plates and covers. 
  • Don’t put too many electric cords in a single extension unit or socket. It can short a circuit and cause a fire.
  • Make sure furniture isn’t resting on any cords as it can damage them and cause shocks or fire.

safety hazard in the home for the elderly

Improper Lighting

Lighting is one of the issues that is easy to fix to improve the safety of your home. When you can’t see well in dimly lit rooms, chances are you might trip on a threshold or consume the wrong medicine. Fixing the lighting should be the first thing to make any living space safer.

  • Make sure all stairs and hallways are well-lit.
  • Install all light switches within reach, especially in the bedroom.
  • Have a light switch both at the bottom and top of the stairs.
  • Use smart assistive devices like motion-activated lights, especially in areas like hallways and around the bathroom.
  • Ensure ample light in the kitchen to reduce the chances of cuts and burns while cooking. 

Aging-friendly interiors 

With age, your home’s interiors may need some modifications to make them suitable for your needs. With limited mobility, it becomes hard to access higher places or navigate stairs. At such times, use security systems, smart devices, and daily living aids to improve safety and make your life easier. 

  • Keep minimal and necessary furniture in the bedroom and other spaces where you spend most of your time.
  • Replace high shelves with easily accessible drawers and cabinets. 
  • Install railings and grab bars along stairs. 
  • Choose a step stool with handles to assist in getting in and out of bed without losing balance.
  • Use aids like video door phones, security cameras and voice-assisted devices to make daily activities easier. 
  • If you use any assistive devices for mobility, make sure they are in good condition, and use them for support instead of holding on to walls or furniture. 

Final Thoughts 

Understanding the needs of the elderly is crucial to making a home aging-ready. Home modifications, mobility aids, essential safety tips and timely personal care can improve the lives of your elderly loved ones. Take appropriate safety steps for seniors to ensure a confident and secure lifestyle as they spend their later years in the home they love. 

    FAQs

    What’s considered a safety risk for the aging patient?

    For aging seniors, safety risks at home include: 

    1. Injury from slips and falls. 
    2. Fire or electric shock from appliances left on. 
    3. Falls in wet areas like bathrooms. 
    4. Cuts and wounds while working in the kitchen or using sharp objects.
    5. Security threats from the kitchen rogue elements. 

    How can the elderly make their home safe?

    Home modifications, mobility aids, basic safety tips and timely personal care can improve the lives of the elderly. Aids like a step stool for the bathroom, grab rails along stairs, smart appliances that automatically switch off when unused, step stool in a bedroom, security cameras, video doorbells, and medical alert systems can make homes safe for the elderly. 

    What safety tips would you offer older adults about moving around their home in general?

    1. Keep all accessible areas of the home clutter-free to avoid tripping over wires, cords, rugs and other stuff left on the floor.
    2. Install handrails along stairs, hallways and bathrooms.
    3. Keep all areas of the house well-lit.
    4. Fix broken thresholds, floor tiles or uneven surfaces.
    5. Use non-slip footwear or socks at home while walking on smooth surfaces.
    6. Affix textured strips or non-slip mats in bathrooms.
    7. Widen doorways to make all areas accessible to wheelchairs.
    8. Step off beds using a step stool with handles.

    Vince Baiera

    Vince Baiera is the founder of step2health, a mobility aids and wellness company for older adults. He is a former ICU Nurse of the Cleveland Clinic and Duke University Hospital in the Cardiac ICU. With years of working on the frontlines, Vince noticed the struggles of older adults and people with mobility issues that became an impediment for both patients and their caretakers. He then designed and created the patented product, Step2Bed (and its variants) that helps seniors and those with mobility issues safely get in and out of bed. His philosophy concerning aging is to plan ahead and start with simple home and life modifications to avoid being overwhelmed at retirement.

    Leave a comment

    Please note, comments must be approved before they are published


    x