Back to Blog

How to Make Your Home Safer for Seniors This Fall and Winter

The nights are getting cooler. The days are getting shorter. Fall is upon us with winter's cold to follow. While it can be nice to bundle up for a pleasant walk in the fresh, brisk air, it is important to remember that some members of the family may need special consideration. Whether you are a senior yourself or are caring for one, there are some simple things to do to make your home safer for seniors during the colder seasons. 

The Senior Shuffle

Many older folks adopt the "senior shuffle," the tendency for someone to not pick up their feet as they walk. There are many causes for this ranging from something as simple as poorly fitting footwear to a much more serious condition such as Parkinson's disease. 

Regardless of the cause, there are things that you can do to accommodate the senior shuffle.

  • If there are stairs at the home's entrances, make sure that you install ADA-compliant ramps. There is a volunteer organization called RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) that not only relies on seniors as volunteers but can assist with things such as installing ramps. 

  • Be sure that the ramp has a non-slip surface and sturdy handrails. It is also helpful, especially for those with declining eyesight, to make the ramp more visible by adding lights or painting it a bright color. 

  • Make sure that sidewalks leading up to and around the home are smooth and flat. If you have brick or cobblestone walkways, it is a good idea to replace them with a level, sturdy surface. This will help make the exterior of your home safer for seniors.

  • Light up walkways. With shorter days, it is important to keep walkways well lighted. Not only will it help with trip hazards but it can direct the senior where to walk.

  • Keep walkways clear. Fall leaves may look picturesque, but they can cause an unsafe walking surface if allowed to pile up. Keeping a broom or rake handy can help you keep pathways clear in a snap. 

  • Likewise, keep walkways free from ice and snow. Icy and snowy surfaces are a hazard for everyone, not just seniors. Having a convenient bucket of ice melt and a scoop at outside doorways can make ice and snow maintenance less of a chore.

Wanderers

Unfortunately, some seniors do wander. It is a delicate decision as to when someone can be on their own and when they need help. It is usually something that happens gradually. However, there are some preventive measures that can be taken so that if that eventuality happens, the senior is already familiar with the environment. Here are a few things you can do to make your home safer for your elderly loved ones:  

  • Consider adding a handrail on walkways. It can help guide the person to where it is safe for them to walk and enjoy.

  • Think about making one outside door the "safe" door. If only one door leads to the outside, then you can make the area that door leads out to a safe space for seniors. 

  • A safe outdoor space can be made by creating a walkway to an outside seating area, fencing in a yard, and keeping the area free from distractions, such as fountains or sculptures that may draw attention away from the safe areas.

  • Routine is important as our loved ones get older. Taking a walk out of the safe door to the safe space at a certain time every day can be helpful if it appears that wandering will become an issue.

On the Inside Looking Out

Cooler outside temperatures mean more time spent inside. Cold weather can make arthritis more painful and aggravate other conditions. Creating cozy areas in the home makes it possible for those to enjoy the changing seasons without having to be outside. All you need is a couple of windows, comfy chairs, and an eye for a view.

  • Keep shrubs and trees neatly trimmed. Make sure that windows are not obstructed by foliage.

  • Place a bird feeder or two in front of the window. Keeping a trash can for the bird feed near the feeders makes it easy to keep them full.

  • Open the curtains so that the view is "framed." It can be helpful, if necessary, to keep the view focused on something simple or pleasing.

  • The chair should be comfortable and have a table nearby to hold essentials such as a lamp, something to drink, something to read, music, and other necessities.

Keeping Safe 

You know your loved one and you know your limits. You know if it is okay to go for a brisk walk or if staying inside is a better idea. Employing simple measures can make your home safer and more comfortable this holiday season and give you peace of mind. However, if things should get overwhelming, remember that we at Elite Home Health Care are here to help.