More Important than Grab Bars for Aging in Place

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What is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about making a home safe for aging in place?

I’d bet its grab bars. Sure, they’re beneficial and always recommended. Aside from being a safety feature, I like them when my legs are sore from a workout. My son likes them when he’s getting out of the bathtub. Yet, they are the tip of the iceberg. As far as I’m concerned, grab bars are not the most important thing for aging in place.

If you have stairs, taking safety precautions here is far more critical. This is why I think this way. Most falls happen during our everyday activities. We use our stairs far more often than we use the shower or bathtub. Despite all the attention on bathrooms, most falls occur on the stairs.

In the US, falls are the leading cause of injury that results in a visit to the emergency room. Falls occur at all ages but the changes that occur during the natural aging process increases the likelihood of a fall. These factors point to stairs as deserving special attention.


HOW USING STAIRS CHANGES WITH AGE

  • It’s harder to discern each step in low light.

  • Steps are harder to see when coming from a room with a lot of light to poorly lit stairs.

  • Glare can make it hard to clearly see steps.

  • Insecure balance and strength when using stairs

Those are some facts, knowing about them opens the door to taking care of any problems.

Stairs can be a worrisome thing for the family of someone who is aging in place.

Addressing the next few items will do wonders. They’re easy things to address and highly preventative.

BEAUTIFULLY LIT STAIRS. IDEALLY I'D ADD ANOTHER RAILING ON THE WALL.

BEAUTIFULLY LIT STAIRS. IDEALLY I'D ADD ANOTHER RAILING ON THE WALL.

DECLUTTER

One of the worst things is having stray objects at the bottom, top, or on the stairs. Keep them clear at all times.

 

GOOD LIGHTING

It’s important everywhere but especially on your stairs. My favorite lights are the sensor type that automatically turns on when approached.

If not stairs with sensors, have on-off switches at the top and bottom and use a minimum 60-watt bulb.

 

CONTRASTING COLORS

This is crucial to making sure it’s easy to delineate the riser and the tread.

If stairs are all the same color, the shadow between riser and tread can be too subtle.

Good Aging in Place Solutions

  • Non-skip tape

  • Paint the risers

  • Rubber stair treads

A GOOD EXAMPLE OF CONTRAST BETWEEN RISER AND TREAD.

A GOOD EXAMPLE OF CONTRAST BETWEEN RISER AND TREAD.

CARPET PATTERN

Beautifully patterned carpet is tempting to install on stairs. However, patterns can confuse the eyes and cause some people to feel dizzy.

Causing dizziness is a good enough reason to skip the pretty pattern. Another issue with patterns is misinterpreting where the last step is. It's best to avoid pattern and spare the potential problems.

 

SCATTER RUGS

Remove any scatter rugs at the top and bottom of the stairs.

 

NON-SLIP and NON-GLARE FLOORING

This is a must!

Install non-slip, non-glare material like vinyl or linoleum. Food for thought, vinyl is plastic and not eco-friendly. On the other hand, linoleum, which is made from linseed oil is. Both come in a variety of colors, faux wood, and faux stone.

At the very least coat stairs with a skid-resistant treatment.

BAD IDEA FOR STAIR CARPETING.

BAD IDEA FOR STAIR CARPETING.

HAND RAILING

Always use handrails when going up and down the stairs. If possible install hand rails on both sides of the stairway. Hold onto at least one railing when carrying things up and down the stairs.

 

NO STOCKING FEET

Go barefoot or wear slippers with treads to prevent slipping.

 

Everyone who is aging in place should have safe stairs in their home.  

They are a common home feature that can cause some worrisome problems. Take action to prevent any issues.

Please share this with everyone you think might find it valuable. If you have questions or need help making your home aging in place friendly click the button below to schedule a phone call with me.